Where is Cholait ?

(This is the English version of the entry Cholait: identification d’un toponyme. If you find some funny English or any other mistake, please leave a comment)

Georges Focus, Recueil de Desseins Ridicules, f.65r ; © The University of Edinburgh ; https://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/kom968

Here is the text of the phylactery of the drawing Cat. 4 by Georges Focus, transcribed in modern and understandable French:

Vide qui vide qui, vide qui vit la petite mésange.
De sur le ton de l’émerillon suivant le petit moineau pour la vendange.
Vique que alati viti Vitu vitau.
Au dessin de ce pressoir est vis-à-vis et vif martyr Vitus.
Nourrissant l’injustice qui le suce et le mange.
Qui en vit sans honte en le maltraitant et lui chantant louange.
Ici, il eut le fouet quoique né le seigneur et le dieu des vignes pour le l’avoir montré à ses dames d’honneur.
Pour avoir du maupoint mis par trop à leur gré dans sa tête, il fut fouetté Bacchus pour avoir montré le vit que l’on processionne en fête.
Et la dévotion de la dame Cottereau n’en aurait pas voulu à Cholait de sur l’eau, encore que le père ami de Monsieur Valérien.
n’en eut plus d’autre, elle abandonnait pour lui son exercice si chrétien.

Focus, Cat. 4 (my transcription differs slightly from that of the Cat.) 1

The drawing shows with some precision a screw basket winepress. Some workers are turning a screw, and another man seems to be checking that the produced liquid is flowing correctly into a basin. In the foreground, the personification of the Loir River removes the bark from a wooden stick with a drawknife. The text plays on the homophony of “vit” (phallus) and Saint Vit. Focus seems to be referring to a personal moment of drunkenness, when he made some obscene gestures and was punished. The drawing has been censored: it’s easy to imagine why a part of it was cut out.

Screw basket winepress ; drawing by Vigneshdm1990vigneshdm — personal work animation, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37073391

The question that occupies us here is about the identification of the place called Cholait in the sentence “Et la dévotion de la dame Cottereau n’en aurait pas voulu à Cholait de sur l’eau”. The editors of the Catalog propose to recognize here the city of Châlette-sur-Loing.

I rather suggest identifying it with an actual toponym of Châteaudun, the birth city of Focus: Chollet or Cholet. Phonetically, this poses no problem. There is currently a rue de Chollet, near the Loir river, and a mill existed in Cholet in 1801/2, which would fit with the phrase “Cholait on the water”.

This new identification has no real consequence in terms of understanding the text, but it confirms the placement of this drawing by the editors of the Catalog in a series of drawings relating to the childhood and adolescence of Focus. It is also a new testimony to the precision of Focus’s memory, as well, I would say, as the quality of his drawing of the press which almost resembles a technical drawing.

Finally, it seems that it allows me to forget the assumption that I had been tempted to make on the possible identification of “the Cottereau lady”. I did wonder if it was possible to see here an allusion to the wife of the doctor and scientist Samuel Cottereau du Clos (1598-1685), a man whom Focus could well have met in Paris, as their lives and social circles seem to be so close. The purely local toponym of Cholait means that this Cottereau lady must be a local Châteaudun person.

Cite this article as: Alexis D'Hautcourt, "Where is Cholait ?," in Georges Focus, peintre et fou, 04/01/2020, https://georgesfocus.hypotheses.org/336.
  1. Emmanuelle Brugerolles (ed.), Georges Focus. La Folie d’un peintre de Louis XIV, Paris, Beaux-Arts de Paris éditions, 2018
    , 400 p. (ISBN 978-2-8405-6544-4). []

Auteur/autrice : Alexis D'Hautcourt

Maître de conférence (Associate Professor), Université des Langues Étrangères du Kansai (関西外国語大学, Kansai Gaidai University)

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