Last ditch bid to save Lawrence of Arabia’s dagger and robes

The iconic image of Lawrence of Arabia as he appeared in the film of the same name.

The iconic image of Lawrence of Arabia as he appeared in the film of the same name.

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THEY FORM part of the enduring image of the legendary Lawrence of Arabia.

However TE Lawerence’s dagger and robes could soon be exported from the UK unless a buyer is found to save them for the nation.

TE Lawrence. Photo: Press Association

TE Lawrence. Photo: Press Association

The Government has acted in a last ditch attempt to keep in these items in the country.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed separate temporary export bars on the dagger and robes in the hope a buyer will match the asking prices of £125,000 for the dagger and £12,500 for the robes.

TE Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia, was one of the most recognisable figures of the First World War, thanks to his work in the Middle East and his involvement in the Arab Revolt. The archaeologist and diplomat, who worked closely with Arab leaders and would always be seen in traditional Arab dress, wore the white silk robes made in Mecca or Medina in the famous portrait of him by Augustus John painted in 1919.

He was presented with the curved steel and silver dagger, called a jambiya, by Sherif Nasir in 1917 after the victory by the forces of the Arab Revolt against the Turkish at Aqaba in Jordan, a scene featured in the film Lawrence of Arabia.

UK risks losing Lawrence of Arabia's iconic robes and dagger' 'Two of T.E. Lawrence's most iconic possessions are at risk of being exported from the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the asking prices of �122,500 for his dagger and �12,500 for his robes.

UK risks losing Lawrence of Arabia's iconic robes and dagger' 'Two of T.E. Lawrence's most iconic possessions are at risk of being exported from the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the asking prices of �122,500 for his dagger and �12,500 for his robes.

Lawrence posed with both possessions while sitting for the sculptor Lady Kathleen Scott, widow of Scott of the Antarctic, leaving them behind after the final sitting so she could continue working.

They have been in her family ever since.

Mr 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.”

UK risks losing Lawrence of Arabia's iconic robes and dagger.

UK risks losing Lawrence of Arabia's iconic robes and dagger.

The decision to defer export licences for the items follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) on the grounds that they are closely associated with UK history and national life.

RCEWA Chairman Sir Hayden Phillips 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. The dagger was presented to Lawrence by Sherif Nasir in gratitude for Lawrence’s leadership and as a spontaneous mark of respect.

“The robes and dagger together form a crucial part of the images of Lawrence in painting, sculpture and photographs; and they are therefore an integral part of his life and our history.”

The export bars on the two items are in place until April 1 but this could be extended to July if a “serious intention to raise funds” to buy the items is made.

TE Lawrence spent the final three months of his service life in Bridlington. He was posted to the Yorkshire coastal town over the winter of 1934 and 1935.

Lawrence had visited Bridlington a number of times previously on RAF duties, including a six-week stay in 1932. He was discharged from the RAF in February 1935 and died, aged 46, following a motorcycle accident less than three months later.

Lawrence of Bridlington

TE Lawrence spent the final three months of his service life in Bridlington. He was posted to the Yorkshire coastal town over the winter of 1934 and 1935.

Lawrence had visited Bridlington a number of times previously on RAF duties. In 1934 he was stationed there to the supervise the armour-plating of 10 diesel-powered launches that were to be used for RAF bombing practice. On February 26, 1935 Lawrence received his discharge from the RAF. He died less than three months later after being injured in a motorcycle accident.

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