Since the structure of the composition designates the hat as its subject, why did Vallotton entitle this painting "The Visit"? Was it to mystify his contemporaries or to cast a veil of mystery over what was already a very unusual painting?
Before answering these questions, we must ask another one: was it really Vallotton who gave the work this title? In fact, the Swiss artist had nothing to do with it ! He kept a livre de raison in which he recorded all the works he painted; this one was entered as Still Life, and numbered LRZ32. It did not acquire the title "The Visit" until 1965, on the occasion of the first retrospective exhibition devoted to the artist in Zurich.
Between 1887 and 1965, this little painting changed titles at least five times. In 1925, it was called "Interior at F. Jasinski’s". In 1926, "The Top Hat, interior". Olivier Senn bought it in May 1929 when it had become "The Half-Open Door". In 1934, its owner loaned it for an exhibition where it was presented under the name "The Top Hat". And in 1955, it was reincarnated as "Top Hat".
The themes of these successive titles are the same: an interior with an open door, and a hat. So when the painting entered the collections of the Malraux Musuem, it was recorded as having two titles: "The Top Hat, interior" and "The Visit". It was decided to keep the title given the painting in 1965, as this was how it had been known for the last 40 years.