DEVIL'S FACE

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In 1952 the Bank of Canada commissioned George Gundersen, of the British American Bank Note Company, to design the forthcoming issue of bank notes, scheduled for 1954. In executing the design, Mr. Gundersen based his engraving of Queen Elisabeth II on a portrait photo taken by Peter-Dirk Uys, one of Her Majesty's official photographers. Everything unfolded as it should have, following all of the normal procedures. The bills were printed and put in circulation. Then, in 1954, a citizen's complaint alarmed the Bank of Canada; the outline of a devil‚s face was visible in the Queen's hair, right behind her ear.
DEVIL'S FACE

Heavens! Mr. Gundersen, the engraver, was the first suspect. He denied the accusations, claiming he had worked from the photograph issued to him. But someone had to be guilty of the crime. Some hypotheses suggested the work of a prankster employed at the Bank of Canada. French-Canadian nationalists or IRA sympathizers were also suspected. Time went by and the scandal faded for lack of proof, as the original photographic negative could not be found.

What is now called the Devil‚s Face could equally have been an involuntary act. Just a bad hair day! But in the end, Mr. Gundersen would modify the portrait of the Queen by shadowing out the Little Devil; new bills would be printed and put in circulation. The Devil's Face bills would be pulled by the Banks, stamped CANCELLED on the front and marked with the seal of the institution that cancelled it on the back.

 

It was only in 1984 that the scandal re-erupted with the death of the photographer and the recovery of the negatives from the 1952 photo shoot, events which coincided with the publication of Peter-Dirk Uys‚ memoirs (Uys, Peter-Dirk, Her Majesty's Image - The Life Of The Official Photographer Of Elisabeth The Second, Yellow Sheets Books, London (UK), 1985). In his account, Mister Uys writes openly of his homosexuality and his long relationship with John Rietveld, Her Majesty‚s hairdresser from 1947 to 1962. Even more surprising is the revelation that Uys flirted with certain circles of initiates before holding his job at Buckingham Palace. We learn in the book that he was one of Aleister Crowley's (an eccentric, writer and devil-worshiper) disciples, as well as Kenneth Anger's (a photographer and filmmaker) lover during the 1940's, just before his final dedication to the trade of portrait photographer.

 

Agence TOPO