The present work would have been part of a twenty-three composition set depicting the Sixteen Great Arhats, along with Buddha Shakyamuni, the attendant Dharmatala, the patron Hvashang, and the Four Directional Guardian Kings. The third arhat, Vanavasin the Elder, is distinguished by the pointing gesture of his right hand and the flywhisk in his left.
The set of paintings to which this work belongs was almost certainly based on an earlier set of Chinese Imperial workshop paintings dating from the Yongle period (1403-1425) depicting the same subject (see J. Simonet, Splendor of Yongle Painting: Portraits of Nine Luohan, 2002, p. 29, cat. no. 4), although the iconography is based on even earlier sutras. Later Tibetan artists likely created numerous sets of arhat paintings based on the Yongle period-paintings; for an example in the Imperial Palace Museum collection, see Himalayan Art Resources (himalayanart.org), item no. 34874.