Himalayan Art Resources

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

གནས་བརྟན། 罗汉
(item no. 480)
Origin Location Central Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Uncertain
Size 97.16x60.96cm (38.25x24in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1996.22.2
Painting School Khyenri
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Arhat

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Vanavasin the Elder (Tibetan: pag pa ne ten, nag la ne, Sanskrit: Arya Sthavira Vanavasin): the 3rd arhat from the set of 16 great arhats.

With a smiling continence and happily absorbed in the task at hand he holds the right hand in a pointed gesture upraised. The left hand is respectfully covered in the folds of red and blue brocade, holding upraised a blue vase - filling with rays of rainbow light, the blessings of the Three Jewels. Attired in a cloak of green and yellow, he also wears a patchwork robe of yellow adorned with blue strips - all in rich brocades. Seated above an elaborate multi-coloured throne, he is surrounded by a dark green areola against a background of pink cloud formations. His shoes, of a Chinese style, rest neatly on a cushion in front.

At the left, in front, a lay attendant stands with the hands in a pointing gesture, attired in colourful robes of red, yellow and blue, attentive to the upheld vase. Behind to the left, an attendant cuts and prepares a fruit plate of persimmons and the like, atop a tall red table; wearing garments of blue and red brocade. At the upper right side is a mountain landscape with a waterfall descending to a dark blue pond. Colourful stylized clouds of yellow, red, green and orange accent the horizon while tall trees and flowering shrubs adorn the left side and rich green foreground.

"In the mountain cave of Seven-leaves is the noble elder Vanavasin, surrounded by 1,400 arhats; homage to the One with a pointing gesture and holding a fly whisk." (Sakya liturgical verse).

The iconographic form normally ascribed to Vanavasin has him performing a pointing gesture with the right hand and holding a fly whisk in the left; this image of Vanavasin is likely accompanied by a specific narrative. The Sixteen Great Arhats are generally painted as a set. Typically 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. (The name is written in gold lettering beneath the throne).

Jeff Watt 5-99

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: Noble Vanavasin.

Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: 'phags pa nag la gnas.

Related Items
Publication: Tibetan Paintings

Thematic Sets
Arhat/Sthavira: Art History
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 3
Painting Set: Arhats: Single Main Figure
Painting Set: Arhat Set I
Arhat/Sthavira: Vanavasin Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Arhat/Sthavira
Collection of RMA: Persons Masterworks