|Date Range||1700 - 1799|
|Material||Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton|
Nagasena the Elder (Tibetan: ne ten, lu'i de. Sanskrit: Sthavira Nagasena): from the set of Sixteen Great Elders and further belonging to a total painting set of twenty-three compositions with Buddha Shakyamuni at the center. All of the Elders are male and belong to the Buddhist monastic system (sangha).
Nagasena is recognized by the vase held in the extended right hand and the upright khakkhara monk’s staff in the left hand. Wearing patchwork robes cut into strips, orange, red, and blue, he sits in a relaxed posture with the left leg extended against a background of a lush green and blue landscape. In the foreground is a seated monk holding a begging bowl in the lap with three flaming wish-fulfilling jewels to the side.
"On the King of Mountains, Vipulopa is the noble elder Nagasena, surrounded by 1,200 arhats; homage to the One holding a vase and a khakkhara staff." (Sakya liturgical verse).
The Sixteen Great Elders are generally painted as a set. In Western art history these sixteen figures are commonly referred to as ‘arhat’ however the correct term for them is ‘elder’ as a more proper translation of the Sanskrit word ‘sthavira.’ Many of the elders in this painting set are depicted off center to the central axis which gives the viewer a sense of placement of the composition either to the right or left side of the central Shakyamuni composition. In Himalayan style art the figures typically look inwards to the central subject. However for balance and to avoid excessive repetition a few of the Elders face forward. It. Is up to the skill of the artist to compose the twenty-three paintings based on their training and the painting style to which they adhere.
Jeff Watt 6-2018
Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: Homage to the Noble Elder Nagasena! Arya Sthavira Nagasena Namo!