Bambi by Aleksander Duravcevic

In the distant past I acquired a large charcoal drawing by Aleksander Duravcevic (affectionately referred to as Sasha). Although I am sure it has an impossibly formal title, we have always called it the “Bambi Drawing”. Much like the amazing George Stubbs painting of the horse in the National Gallery in London, it reads as both a huge formal portrait as well as an exquisite drawing of an animal. I find it impossibly beautiful. It is also ridiculously fragile. It was always intended for the dining room that did not yet exist but had been taking shape in our minds for years. Suddenly the room was ready and Bambi was still temporarily hanging from clips from the picture rail in our living room, looking vulnerable and aloof.

Bambi’s frame, left as it arrived from the cabinet maker and right after being painted in casein.

Our house was built in 1864 and although we have no interest in living in a period house we still maintain a pretty formal aesthetic. The completed dining room walls are painted an intense deep red (Farrow and Ball Etruscan Red), the furniture is the combination of a dark wood table, a sideboard and white painted French armchairs (none of which match). The artwork is all black and white. The color comes from the space itself. In addition to the red walls, the cornice is a mossy green and the ceiling is an anything but subtle blue. The art that was already in place ranges from contemporary white ceramic wall pieces to vintage and contemporary photography, drawings and prints including a drawing by my then 5 year old nephew of a raccoon that hangs in a Louis XV wooden frame from the fifties, a period Victorian gilt frame on an Alma Tadema engraving and simple black frames on much of the photography. We wanted the room to have the feel of a 19th century hanging, no small feat with this eclectic grouping, so figuring out what to do with a huge (over 6×4 foot) contemporary drawing was an issue.

Sasha’s drawings are usually shown in simple wood gallery frames, which are beautiful on white walls but would look harsh in this space. We also decided that we did not want to use plexiglass or glass over the piece. While we understand the importance of protecting the surface we felt that in a childless domestic interior we would risk it to preserve the velvety appearance of the drawing. The frame also had to be deep enough to protect it from casual traffic and the occasional wild party.

Top left – drawing the stencils, top right – placement of the stencil, bottom left – applying gold leaf, bottom right – securing the gold leaf.

I have always loved Italian art and their frames. I especially like old cassetta style frames which are flat panels with raised inner and outer mouldings. I know a young, eager and very talented cabinet maker who would love to build something besides another high end kitchen or wall unit and who was up to the challenge. I went through books, walked through the Met, took measurements and did drawings and sent the cabinet maker away to build the frame. When he delivered it a few weeks later and I saw how big it was that I thought what in Bambi’s name have I done? There was no turning back. I knew it was to be black so I painted it in casein which mimics the flat fresco like look of old painted frames and I decided to gild the corners and central medallions to both lighten it visually and also to reflect light in the evening when lights are low during meals. The gilding was left rather crude to prevent it from appearing harsh and graphic, this was not for a lobby in a Trump building or a McMansion great room. The back panel of the frame is covered in linen which has been painted flat black. The edges of the drawing are exposed and white so Bambi floats within the frame. It has been mounted with aluminum push pins, a nod to its contemporary status.

The final result is quite amazing.

This huge drawing in this massive frame seems quite at home on the red walls in this frighteningly mature room. It creates a window that feels like you are looking through to a vista with a fawn standing in it. While it dominates the wall, it does not over power the room. I am looking forward to serving venison this fall while Bambi looks on in silent horror.

Sources
Artist: Aleksander Duravcevic 917-363-0002
Cabinetmaker: Christian Galesi 646-541-8547
Finishing: Grand Avenue Workshop 718-789-3306

Reference Books
Italian Renaissance Frames
Timothy J Newbery et. al
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Harry N. Abrams Inc, 1990

Frames in the Robert Lehman Collection
Timothy J Newbery
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Princeton University Press, 2007

Lowy: The Secret Lives of Frames
Deborah Davis
Filipacchi Publishing, 2007

The Art of the Picture Frame
Jacob Somon
National Portrait Gallery Publications, London, 1996

The Gilded Edge
Eli Wilner
Chronicle Books, 2000