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Charles Antoine Cambon

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Name  Charles-Antoine Cambon

Died  1875
Charles-Antoine Cambon

Charles-Antoine Cambon (21 April 1802 Paris – 22 October 1875 Paris) was a French scenographer who acquired international notoriety in the Romantic Era.


Charles-Antoine Cambon CharlesAntoine Cambon Wikipdia


Little biographical information exists on Cambon's early years, other than that he would have been active as an aquarelle and sepia artist before studying with Pierre-Luc Charles Ciceri. At Ciceri's workshop Cambon made acquaintance with Humanité-René Philastre, who would become his first long-term associate.

As a stage design for a "Salon" at the Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra testifies, Philastre and Cambon started collaborating in 1824 at the latest. From that time until 1848, Philastre and Cambon accepted numerous joint commissions for theatrical interior decorations and stage designs. Thus, they decorated the interiors of venues in Angoulême, Antwerp, Beaune, Brest, Choiseul, Dijon, Douai, Ghent, Lille, Lyon, Paris and Rouen, often providing complete machineries as well. Philastre and Cambon also designed productions – or portions thereof, as was customary back then – for Paris (Académie Royale de Musique, Ambigu, Bouffes-Parisiens, Cirque Olympique, Comédie-Française, Délassements-Comiques, Folies-Dramatiques, Porte Saint-Martin), Antwerp (Théâtre Royal Français), Barcelona (Liceu) and Ghent (Grand Théâtre) that created the blueprint for grand opéra and romantic scenography in Europe. Notable stagings to which Philastre and Cambon contributed are the world premieres of Auber's Gustave III, ou Le bal masque (1833), Berlioz' Benvenuto Cellini (1838), Donizetti's La favorite (1840), Halévy's La juive (1835), and Hugo's Les Burgraves (1843).

Cambon separated from Philastre in 1848 as the latter emigrated to Spain. He found a new associate in an extremely talented student, Joseph Thierry, with whom Cambon would design epoch-making productions for the Châtelet, Opéra, Opéra-Comique, Théâtre-Historique, and Théâtre-Lyrique in Paris. Examples of Cambon and Thierry's joint oeuvre include the world premieres of Berlioz' Les Troyens à Carthage (1863), Gounod's Faust (1859) and La reine de Saba (1862), Meyerbeer's Le prophète (1849) and L'Africaine (1865), Verdi's Jérusalem (1847) and Don Carlos (1867), and Wagner's Tannhäuser (Parisian version, 1861).

After Thierry's premature death, in 1866, Cambon continued to work in full independence for venues in Cairo (Khedivial Opera) and Paris (Odéon, Opéra and Vaudeville), decorating a.o. the world premieres of Delibes' Coppélia (1870) and of Thomas' Hamlet (1868), next to a large number of the Palais Garnier's first-generation productions (a.o. Don Giovanni, Faust, La favorite, Guillaume Tell, Hamlet, Les Huguenots, Jeanne d'Arc and La juive). Cambon was to co-design the premiere of Verdi's Aida (1871), but dropped out of the production due to unknown circumstances.

Cambon taught many pupils at his scenic studio at 3 rue Neuve-Samson (currently rue Léon-Jouhaux, Xme Arrondissement). Students of note are Antoine Lavastre and Eugène Louis Carpezat (his official successors), Chéret, Jean-Émile Daran, Célestin-François-Louis Gosse, Eugène Lacoste, Jules-Frédéric Le Goff, Francesc Soler Rovirosa, and Angelo II Quaglio.

Cambon was named 'Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur' in 1869. He was a fried of Prosper Mérimée and Stendhal. Cambon's funeral service at Saint-Denis-du-Sacrement and subsequent burial at Montmartre Cemetery were reportedly attended by Camille du Locle, Émile Perrin and Édouard Thierry, as well as by the complete crew of the Opéra.


Although Cambon, like most contemporary scenographers, created scenery of various types and styles during his long career, it was in architectural settings that he achieved true excellence. In keeping with the romantic need for couleur locale and couleur historique, Cambon aimed at the illusionistic rendering of architectural space, the character and atmosphere of which he enhanced through the use of dramatic points of view and clair-obscur. Cambon's designs and scale-models in Conté crayon, sepia or pastel furthermore reveal an exquisite draughtsmanship in its own right. Though lacking the rich palette of most contemporaries and successors, Cambon's interiors and exteriors are characterized by precise, delicate lines that betry a solid sense of architectural composition and knowledge of each play or opera's spatial needs.

Preserved works

On 17 May 1877, 2,000 designs by Cambon were sold by his widow at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris. Two hundred of these were acquired by the Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra, which would also preserve Cambon's maquettes for the Académie Royale de Musique from 1866 onwards. A number of scale-models predating 1866 have also been preserved. Other stage designs by Cambon are held at the Archives of the Comédie-Française.

Authentic, large-scale artifacts of Cambon's activity survive at

  • the Bourla Theatre of Antwerp (B): five levels of authentic stage machineries and foyer decorations designed and executed by Philastre and Cambon in 1834. Notwithstanding being protected, the machinery might still disappear in the near future due to the need of modernization by the venue's current user, Het Toneelhuis—it was listed by Europa Nostra among the 7 Most Endangered sites of 2014.
  • the Grand Théâtre of Ghent (B): interior decorations by Philastre and Cambon from 1841.
  • the Théâtre of Montbéliard (F): ceiling painted by Cambon and Thierry in 1857.
  • the Château des Princes in Chimay (B): interior decorations and act curtain designed by Cambon between 1860 and 1863. The curtain was altered in moder times into a backdrop with newly added flats to create a 'garden' set.
  • References

    Charles-Antoine Cambon Wikipedia

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