THE PROPERTY OF THE LATE LADY KENNET SOLD BY ORDER OF THE EXECUTORS
(see also lots 174-182)
The dagger and robes of T.E. LAWRENCE (1888-1935): A chance encounter between Kathleen Scott [later Lady Kennet], widow of the Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, and T.E. Lawrence at Waterloo station gave the sculptress and society hostess an opportunity to request a sitting from the man she had spied once before at the ballet – ‘you had a turban on and I think I thought you had been born in it’, she would write to him – without having known his identity. Lawrence acquiesced, stipulating only that she did not ‘do me as Colonel Lawrence (he died Nov. 11. 1918)’. In fact, the resulting sculpture depicted him in just this manner, in full Arab dress, dagger at his waist. Of the sitting on 9 February 1921, Scott wrote: ‘Oh, what a very pleasant day, first Col. Lawrence came. We had great fun about dressing him up in his Arabian clothes, which he finally put on in the drawing room’. After his final sitting on the 20 February, he left the present dagger and robes with Kathleen, that she might continue her work while he sailed to Cairo; it would be over a year later, on the 28 August 1922, that he would write to request their return – ‘There’s a little artist wants to do an Arab picture, & has asked me for kit … Do you think you could provide some from your store?’ – later mentioning in a letter to Lionel Curtis in 1929 (see below) that the dagger still remained in the possession of Lady Hilton Young [Scott having married Edward Hilton Young, later 1st Baron Kennet]. No such retrieval was made, and the dagger and the robes have remained in the possession of the family since then. Christie's is grateful for the help of Joseph Berton in the cataloguing of these two lots.
Joseph Berton, ‘T. E. Lawrence: His Arab Clothing and Daggers’, The Journal of the T. E. Lawrence Society, vol. XXIV (2014/15), No.1, pp. 39-55.
Alison Jolley, ‘‘An acute attack of Lawrencitis’: Lady Kathleen Scott’s Friendship with the Lawrence family’, ibid., pp. 56-111.
David Garnett (ed.), The Letters of T. E. Lawrence of Arabia (London, 1964).
Jeremy Wilson, Lawrence of Arabia (London, 1989).
SILVER-GILT MOUNTED ARAB JAMBIYA DAGGER. Ornately-tooled hilt and scabbard, curved blade. 30cm long.
Exhibition history: National Portrait Gallery, 1988-89, no. 128, see the accompanying catalogue: Jeremy Wilson, T.E. Lawrence (National Portrait Gallery Publications, London, 1988), p.88; Imperial War Museum, 2005-6.
A MAGNIFICENT SILVER-GILT DAGGER, PRESENTED TO LAWRENCE AFTER HIS TRIUMPH AT AQABA BY SHERIF NASIR. Returning to Cairo in July 1917 from the coup de main against Aqaba that would forever gild his reputation as the daring hero of Arabia, Lawrence found himself ‘daggerless and near naked’, as he would write to Lionel Curtis over a decade later. Sherif Abdullah, elder brother of Feisal and future ruler of the Transjordan, had presented Lawrence with his first dagger of silver gilt in Wadi Ais; from then on, a dagger belted onto the waistband of the flowing Arab robes he quickly adopted in the desert was to be a near-constant presence for the duration of the war. His letter to Curtis, of the 22 February 1929, detailed the three cherished blades he had owned; his first dagger he presented as a gift to the Howeitat chiefs in the Wadi Sirhan at the urging of Sherif Nasir – cousin of Feisal and Abdullah, who commanded the expedition alongside Lawrence and Abu ibu Tayi – an investment lavishly rewarded by the support of the Bedouin in the assault on Aqaba. Returning triumphant, anxious for a replacement, Lawrence travelled quickly to Jidda and then returned to Aqaba, where Nasir presented him with the present dagger, an honorific gift. Referred to in his letter as ‘Dagger III’, for he had taken advantage of his time in Jidda to commission another – small, gold – dagger to be made in Mecca (‘Dagger II’), he lamented its loss – as one of only ‘two daggers being still alive’ – after leaving it with Kathleen Scott, and continued: ‘I will try and see Lady Hilton Young [her married name] and ask tactfully if she thinks the silver one is hers or not’. Lawrence’s small gold dagger having been sold to Curtis for £125, and subsequently presented to All Souls’ College, Oxford, the present dagger – richly ornate and weighty both in physicality and historical significance – represents THE LAST OF LAWRENCE’S ARABIAN DAGGERS KNOWN TO SURVIVE IN PRIVATE HANDS.