Visions of Cambodian Dance selected by...Raymond Cogniat

by Raymond Cogniat

Some wondrous black-and-white photographs of dancers in Cambodia, Laos, Annam and Tonkin (Vietnam), shot in the 1920s.

Cogniat danses indochine 1932 pl4

Published: 1932

Author: Raymond Cogniat

Source: selection from Danses d'Indochine, Paris, 1932 [ADB Digital Books ePHOTCOGN]

No less than 22 out of 60 plates, as well as the front and back covers of the book, were dedicated to Cambodian dancers, a selection showing the impact the Royal Ballet of Cambodia retained on French imaginations long after their historic visit to Paris and Marseilles in 1906.

Except for plates 17 to 19, credited to "Photo Pathé" -- and of lesser quality than the other ones --, these remarkable shots come without credit. However, Plate 8 is undoubtedly a reproduction of a famous photograph by Léon Busy, and all remaining ones can be attributed to this photographer, both at Angkor Wat and at Phnom Penh Royal Palace (Plates 9 to 20 being set near or inside the Chanchaya Pavilion). Note that the author was able to aptly distinguish between the Royal Ballet dancers themselves and "the local, irregular troupes formed in Angkor area with the purpose of entertaining visiting dignitaries and tourists."

In addition, we have added to this gallery, for comparison of costumes and postures, one photograph of the Vientiane "corps de ballet" (Plate 26) [1], one of Kah village dance in Laotian province of Bassac (Pakse) (Plate 56), and one of a ceremonial dance in Hue (Annam, now Vietnam) during the 40th Birthday celebration (Plate 41) [2].

[1] Note the presence of male dancers in Laotian court dance at that time, while they would appear in Cambodian court dance much later, in the 1950s.

[2] The fourtieth birthday of  S. M. Khai-Dinh, Emperor of Annam, was celebrated in Hue in September-October 1924.

Tags: dance, dancers, Cambodian dance, Laos, Vietnam, French Indochina, photography, Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh Royal Palace, tourism

About the Photographer


Raymond Cogniat

Raymond Cogniat (14 April 1896, Paris- 20 Feb. 1977, Paris, France) was a French art critic, historian of art and journalist who authored in 1932 Danses d'Indochine, a commented collection of photographs with a focus on Cambodian classical dance.

Active since 1918 in the field of avant-garde theater as a member of Théâtre de l'Atelier, he began writing on arts (theater, dance, visual arts) in Comœdia and Revue de l'Amérique latine reviews, and as a literary critic for Chantecler between 1925 and 1932. Editor-in-chief of Le Monde illustré (1932-1938), Beaux-Arts (1933-1940) and Prisme des arts (1956-1976), he also founded the magazine Arts (1945-1951), and was the art critic of Le Figaro newspaper from 1957 to 1976.

Principal Inspector of Fine Arts from 1943 to 1966, he was the curator of the French pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and contributed to the creation of the Paris Biennale in 1959 as general delegate appointed by then French Minister of Culture and Fine Arts André Malraux.

Founder of the Syndicat des professionnels de la presse artistique in 1948, Raymond Coignat presided over the First International Symposium of AICA (Association internationale des critiques d’art, International Association of Art Critics).


  • Décors de Théatre, Paris, Editions des Chroniques du Jour, 1930.
  • Danses d'Indochine, Paris, Editions des Chroniques du Jour, G. Di San Lazzaro editeur, 1932.
  • Simon Lissim (with G. Lechevallier-Chevignard and Louis Réau, Paris, Éditions Du Cygne, 1933.
  • De la mise en scène: essai d'esthétique du théâtre, Paris, 1947.
  • The century of the impressionists, London: Clematis Press, 1960. Translated by Graham Snell from Le siècle des impressionistes, Paris, Flammarion, 1959.
  • Raoul Dufy, New York: Crown, 1962. Tr. by Thomas L. Callow from the French edition Raoul Duffy, Paris, Éditions Braun & Cie, 1950.
  • Cinquante ans de spectacles de France. Les decorateurs de theatre, Paris, Librarie theatrale, 1955.
  • Seventeenth-century painting, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1964. Tr. by Frances Partridge.
  • XXth century drawings and water-colors, New York, Crown Publishers, 1966. Tr. by Anne Ross from the French edition Dessins et aquarelles du XXe siècle, Paris, Librarie Hachette, 1966.
  • Monet and his world, London, Thames & Hudson, 1966. Tr. by Wayne Diles from the French.
  • Romanticism, London, Heron, 1968. T. by Joan White from the French edition Le romantisme, Lausanne, Editions Rencontre, 1966.
  • Braque, New York, Crown Publishers, 1970. Tr. by Eileen B. Hennessy from the French edition Braque, Paris, Éditions Braun & Cie, 1970.
  • Georges Braque, New York,  Harry N. Abrams, 1980. Tr. by I. Mark Paris from the French edition G. Braque, 1976.
  • Sisley, New York, Crown Publishers, 1978. Tr. by Alice Sachs from the French Sisley, Paris: Flammarion, 1978.
  • In 1999, the editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica added a notice on artist Pierre Auguste Renoir authored by Raymond Cogniat.