United Kingdom tries to retain Lawrence of Arabia’s dagger, robes

The archaeologist and diplomat, was considered one of the most recognisable figures of World War I.

world Updated: Feb 02, 2016 21:22 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times
TE Lawrence Lawrence of Arabia,United Kingdom,World War I
TE Lawrence, ‘one of the most extraordinary figures of the 20th century’.

Two of TE Lawrence’s most iconic possessions are at risk of being exported from Britain unless a buyer can be found to match the asking prices of £122,500 for his dagger and £12,500 for his robes.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed two separate temporary export bars to provide an opportunity to keep the national treasures in the UK, official sources said on Tuesday.

Known popularly as “Lawrence of Arabia”, the archaeologist and diplomat, was considered one of the most recognisable figures of World War I, following his work in the Middle East and his involvement in the Arab Revolt.

Lawrence worked closely with numerous Arab leaders and would always be seen in traditional Arab dress. These white silk robes were made in Mecca or Medina and he wore them in a 1919 oil portrait by Augustus John.

The steel and silver dagger was famously presented to him by Sherif Nasir in 1917 after the victory at Aqaba in Jordan, a scene featured in the Oscar-winning film “Lawrence of Arabia”.

Lawrence posed with the curved dagger--called a jambiya--and the robes while sitting for sculptor Lady Kathleen Scott, the widow of Scott of the Antarctic, in 1921. He left them behind after his final session so Scott could continue working and they have remained in her family ever since.

Vaizey said: “TE Lawrence was one of the most extraordinary figures of the 20th century. These robes and dagger are absolutely iconic and a key part of his enduring image. It is important that these classic objects remain in the UK.”

Hayden Phillips, chairman of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, said: “Although the depiction, in the film Lawrence of Arabia, of Lawrence leading a sweeping camel charge across the desert into Aqaba in 1917 is probably a romantic exaggeration--stunning though it is--the taking of Aqaba from the landward side, with the help of Auda Abu Tayi, leader of the northern Howeitat, was an extraordinary feat and marked a crucial turning point in the campaign.”

First Published: Feb 02, 2016 21:22 IST