Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Arhat/Sthavira (Buddhist Elder) - 16 Elders: Kanakavatsa

གནས་བརྟན། 罗汉
(item no. 33)
Origin Location Eastern Tibet
Date Range 1600 - 1699
Size 93.98x58.42cm (37x23in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Shelley & Donald Rubin
Catalogue # acc.# P1990.1.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Arhat

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Kanakavatsa, the Elder (Tibetan: ne ten, ser be'u, Sanskrit: Sthavira Kanakavatsa, English: the Golden Calf): the 7th arhat from the set of 16 great arhats.

Gazing to the right while occupied with the hands, he is serene in appearance with short dark hair and a round full face. The right hand holds up between the fingers a piece of incense. The left holds an incense burner - red handled with a gold bowl. Attired in rich brocades of red and blue patchwork strips, ornate with gold floral patterns, he wears a lower garment green in colour. Seated on a simple upright wooden chair, legs extended forward, with one foot exposed wearing an ornate sandal, he is framed by a dark green areola encircling the head. The name 'Arya Kanakavatsa' is written in gold Tibetan lettering below the chair.

"In the excellent land of Kashmir is the noble elder Kanakavatsa, surrounded by 500 arhats; homage to the One holding a jewel lasso." (Sakya liturgical verse).

At the left a tall red table supports an incense bowl, gold flower vase and a red box partially covered with a cloth. At the right side beneath a tall flowering tree as a canopy is a standing lay attendant holding a religious book in front, respectfully held with a red piece of cloth. Variously adorned with gold ornaments and multi-coloured garments he stands in a polite manner with the feet together. Below, a balding dwarf, similarly attired with ornaments and dress, holds upraised a bowl of fruit as an offering. The background is filled with green hills and foliage, clouds of yellow, red and green, against a dark blue sky. The foreground of a green open space exhibits minor rocky features.

The standard iconographic form of Kanakavatsa typically portrays him holding a long jewel lasso in both hands - a gift of the nagas. The Sixteen Great Arhats are generally painted as a set. The full group would include the buddha Shakyamuni, the 16 arhats, the attendant Dharmatala, the patron Hvashang and the Four Guardians of the Directions: Vaishravana, Virupaksha, Dritarashtra and Virudhaka.

Jeff Watt 5-99

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: The Noble Golden Calf.

Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: 'phags pa ser be'u.

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Painting Set: Arhats: Single Main Figure
Painting Set: Arhat Set I
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Arhat/Sthavira: Kanakavatsa Main Page
Collection of Shelley & Donald Rubin