Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Arab robe worn by T. E. Lawrence

  • Description

    Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence (T. E. Lawrence, 1888-1935) was an undergraduate student at Jesus College, Oxford and then worked as an archaeologist in Syria. He joined the Military in 1914 and became renowned for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt of 1916–18. Seven Pillars of Wisdom is his account of the desert campaigns. He wrote most of it while he was a fellow at All Souls College. In the years after World War I ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ became a popular hero, a role he did not entirely approve of.

    This outfit was probably worn by T. E. Lawrence while he was with the Arab army 1916-1918. He worked closely with Emir Faisal (later King Faisal of Iraq) during the Arab Revolt (1916-1918), and on his suggestion, adopted Arab dress:

    "I was...[fitted out]…in splendid white silk and golden-embroidered wedding garments which had been sent to Faisal lately (was it a hint?) by his great-aunt in Mecca." (T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom Ch.XX)

    The basic Arab male dress is a long, white shirt thob, sometimes embroidered at the neck. Wealthy men wear a second robe zebun over it. The headcloth is held down with a heavy decorative rope aqal, here made of gold thread wound around a silk core.

  • Details

    Associated place
    Asia Saudi Arabia (north) (place of creation)
    Associated people
    T.E. Lawrence (1888 - 1935) (recipient)
    possibly Faisal bin al-Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi (1883 - 1933) (recipient)
    Material and technique
    white silk, with gold and silver thread; tapestry woven with discontinuous supplementary weft
    width at hem 133.5 x 143.5 cm (height x width)
    tassle 37.5 cm (length)
    Material index
    Technique index
    Object type index
    No. of items
    Credit line
    Presented by Dr M. R. and Professor A. W. Lawrence, 1965.
    Accession no.
  • Further reading

    Wilson, J. M., T. E. Lawrence "Lawrence of Arabia": Set of Slides with a Commentary and Biographical Notes by J. M. Wilson (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1976), cat. slide 6 on pp. 17-20, illus. slide 6


    • currently in research collection

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