Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Arhat/Sthavira (Buddhist Elder) - (multiple figures)

གནས་བརྟན། 罗汉
(item no. 1104)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Gelug and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Arhat

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Three Arhats: Rahula, Chudapantaka, Pindola Bharadvaja - a composition (left 2nd) belonging to a seven painting set.

At the upper center of the composition is Rahula, the son of Shakyamuni Buddha, holding a golden crown. Above to the left is the Buddha of Long-life, Amitayus. At the lower left is Chudapantaka with hands placed in the lap. At the right is Pindola Bharadvaja holding a book in the right hand and a begging bowl in the left.

Arhat (Tibetan: ne tan): a Sanskrit term for Buddhist saints representing the earliest followers of the Buddha, always found in a group of sixteen, they are painted on cloth, wall murals, and fashioned of metal, stone, clay, or wood. An early iconographic source for the individual descriptions of the arhats is the verse text Praise to the Sixteen Arhats attributed to the Kashmiri teacher Shakyashri Bhadra of the 12th/13th century. In the Tibetan system there are only sixteen arhats in contrast to the Chinese reference to eighteen or five hundred arhats (lohan).

Shakyamuni Buddha is the central figure, the first painting or sculpture, for all sets of the Sixteen Great Arhats. The full group of arhats always has twenty-five figures: the Buddha Shakyamuni, together with the two foremost disciples - Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, the sixteen Arhats, the attendant Dharmata, the patron Hvashang and the Four Guardians of the Directions; Vaishravana, Virupaksha, Dhritarashtra and Virudhaka. In all an extensive set of paintings would comprise twenty-three individual paintings. The two foremost disciples are almost always portrayed in the same painted composition with Buddha Shakyamuni. In sculpture sets the total number of pieces is twenty-five.

The composition above belongs to a seven painting set and follows a block print model created at nartang Monastery in the 18th century. The image of the painting exhibited above is the left 2nd in the series (see an example of the full set). A number of arhat painting sets have been created using the Nartang print model. The original set of paintings, or any individual paintings, from which the block print set itself was created has not yet been located.

Identical Composition from Other Sets:
- #54440
- #69405
- #72137

Arhat Block Print & Painting Sets:
- Block Print Set, Nartang Monastery (Tibet House)
- Field Museum Set, Outline Page
- Asian Art Museum, SF, Outline Page

Jeff Watt 9-2012

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: [Name inscription for each arhat]

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Collection of Shelley & Donald Rubin (Teachers)
Collection of Shelley & Donald Rubin