The last of T.E. Lawrence’s Arabian daggers
known to survive in private hands
A silver-gilt mounted Arab Jambiya dagger
Ornately-tooled hilt and scabbard; curved blade
Length: 30 centimetres (11.8 inches)
Estimated price: £60,000-90,000
A chance encounter between Kathleen Scott, later Lady Kennet, and T.E. Lawrence at Waterloo Station gave the sculptress and society hostess an opportunity to request a sitting from the man she had once spied once 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. The resulting sculpture depicted him as Colonel Lawrence, in full Arab dress, dagger at his waist. Of the sitting on February 9, 1921, Scott wrote: “We had great fun about dressing Col. Lawrence up in his Arabian clothes.”
After his final sitting on February 20, he left the present dagger and robes with Kathleen, so that she might continue her work, while he sailed to Cairo; it would be over a year later, on August 28, 1922, that he would write to request their return and later mentioning in a letter to Lionel Curtis in 1929 that the dagger still remained in the possession of Lady Kennet. No such retrieval was made, and the dagger and the robes have remained in the possession of the family since then.
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”, as he would write to Lionel Curtis. 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.
Lawrence of Arabia had three daggers – his first dagger he presented as a gift to the Howeitat chiefs in the Wadi Sirhan – 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 Sherif Nasir presented him with the present dagger, an honorific gift. It was referred to as ‘Dagger III’, for he had taken advantage of his time in Jidda to commission another – small, gold – dagger (‘Dagger II’).
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