Skip to comments.Lawrence of Arabia's £1/4m compass 'is a £50 fake'
Posted on 10/22/2006 5:38:14 PM PDT by FLOutdoorsman
It was described as the pocket compass used by Lawrence of Arabia during his First World War desert adventures when it was sold by Christie's for more than £250,000.
But now the auction house is facing embarrassing claims from experts that it has been duped - and the successful bidder walked away with a £50 fake.
The two-inch brass pocket compass, which fetched £254,000 when it was sold with a watch and cigarette case, was said to have helped Lawrence as he led the Arab revolt against Germany's ally Turkey.
Christie's claimed the three items were given by Lawrence to Corporal Albert "Taffy' Evans, who they said was his unofficial chauffeur at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.
An inscription on the cigarette case reads: "I leave to my dear friend Taffy my compass which saw me safely across a wilderness so that he may occasionally know where he is going!'
But Lawrence's authorised biographer Jeremy Wilson says that during more than 30 years research on the British hero he has never come across any reference to a "Taffy' Evans working for Lawrence at the conference - or indeed any other driver.
He said it was one of a number of 'problems' with the items which he claimed to have warned Christie's about before the sale last month.
"There are a number of awkward questions to answer,' said Mr Wilson. "I have never come across a Taffy Evans working for Lawrence. Also, why would Lawrence, having spent some months in the UK during the winter of 1918-19, have taken his wartime marching compass to the Paris Peace Conference?
"And as Lawrence didn't smoke at any stage in his life, why would he have a cigarette case?' Mr Wilson pointed out the engraved inscription in the case refers to Lawrence as "T.E." - a short form not used until 1923. He claimed: "The whole set could be worth as little as £50."
One antiques dealer, who did not want to be identified, said: "I was gobsmacked by the sale. I have a problem with people who play with the truth."
The seller, Colin Humphreys, has responded to the growing doubts about authenticity on a specialist internet discussion forum. "The items were presented by Lawrence before his departure for Oxford in late August 1919,' he wrote. "He was a serial gifter of what he considered redundant items to his friends."
He added: "The terms of the sale are such that if within five years the successful bidder finds the items to be a deliberate forgery, I will repay him every penny, a condition I had no hesitation in accepting."
The items, which were included in an exhibition at London's Imperial War Museum before the Christie's sale, were expected to fetch up to £16,000 but were bought by an anonymous telephone bidder for more than 15 times that amount.
Mr Wilson was not consulted about their inclusion in the exhibition but said he would have advised against showing them.
Lawrence was an archaeologist working in the Middle East when he was recruited by the British Army to mount reconnaissance exercises to determine the extent of Arab nationalism.
His close friendships with local tribes and his adoption of their flowing robes turned him into the romantic figure of popular imagination immortalised by Peter O'Toole in the 1962 film Lawrence Of Arabia.
A Christie's spokesman said: "We have no reason to doubt these objects were the property of T.E. Lawrence.
"We endeavour to uphold the highest standards in cataloguing. However, if convincing evidence did come to light that a work of art is not as catalogued, we would take the necessary steps including, if appropriate, cancelling the sale."
Too bad, that would have been a nice item.
The arrow automatically points to the nearest "poofie".
This sounds like a classic case of buyer's remorse. The guy paid way more than it was really worth even if authentic, realized it, and is trying to get his money back.
In any event, the buyer should have examined the items and done the needed research before the sale. If he had any doubts about the authenticity, he should not have bid.
It's not always the seller or auctioneer that is the crook.
Who's the poofter, Lawrence or O'Toole?........
Lawrence was in the British Tank Corps, after the war he was acknowledged by his father, and joined the tank corps under the name T.E. Chapman, and was sent to Afghanistan to serve.
The government of Afghanistan objected, anticipating that he would be used to organize a rebellion (not an unlikely thing ever in Afghanistan). T.E. Chapman was shipped back to England, and separated from the service.
He changed his name again, to T.E. Shaw, after his close friend George Bernard Shaw. If you read the book "I Claudius" by Robert Graves, you will find that he previewed the book, and his salient points are mentioned by name.
TE Shaw served in the Royal Air Force for many years, helping develop their boat service, for rescuing downed pilots.
If the item is from that time, and there is no record of it one way or the other but TE tended to give out such items, I think that finding "proof" that it's a forgery will be very, very difficult. It will be like proving the existence of a nullity, proof that something (flying horses? aliens from Neptune?) can't exist. The seller has every reason to be confident.