Power is a multidimensional entity that can be interpreted and manifested in many ways on all layers of reality. A person can have power over his discipline, family, health, or other people. Some philosophers think that power is a fundamental principle that moves the whole world, all animate and inanimate beings with the same primordial will — the will to it. Indeed, all intentions, articulated or not, come from the structure of nature or existence itself.
Everything is limited, imperfect, and incomplete; that is why life as movement is possible because only if some space is not filled yet, can activity be. When something is perfect and complete, it means that, firstly, it has no free space to fill. Secondly, it does not need to move, because why should it? Precisely this is a point where every will can appear, and, consequently, will to power that is motivated by the aspiration to fullness. Art is one of the most effective ways to accomplish the latter, and powerful figures actively assert and extend their influence and interests through this as it directly addresses human mentality and state of the soul.
Art accompanies man throughout his history, from cave paintings to iconography and modern, so we can conclude that it satisfies some deep need. Man, primarily a primitive one, does not bother himself with things that are not useful for him in one or another degree. He always seeks possibilities to fulfill the incompleteness that we described before. Moreover, no ruler vastly invests in art when he can spend his resources on the army, for example, because the latter guarantees his power. It means that no one can rule people only by using brute force; it is much more efficient to influence them in all aspects, particularly their sense of beauty.
A specific aesthetics bears the imprint of its historical, semantic, and ideological context. We can say that beauty is always associated with true for they both promise a man perfection. When some ruler invests in art, he intends to form a comfortable atmosphere in a society that will associate this beauty with the righteousness of power. Therefore, powerful figures can spread their influence and support necessary public mood through all kinds of art.
Furthermore, a ruler’s influence can spread through images represented in something material or some stories. Images contain definite meaning in them that references recipients to some context to interpret them. Besides, they concern the sense of beauty beyond all conceptual constructions, and they form human intuition beliefs directly. It is another way by which art can work for some ideologies, religions, or concrete, powerful figures.
To present how art can influence the development of history and the spread of power, I will take the “Hungry Tigress” painting as an example. It is located on the south wall of the Caves of Mogao, keeping one thousand years of medieval Chinese visual culture. The painting represents one of the tales about previous Buddha’s incarnations; these tales are called Jataka. It depicts the future Buddha who sacrifices himself to feed a tigress and her cubs. There are three scenes within on painting: the first one illustrates how the Prince hangs his clothes from tree branches. The second one represents the Prince falling from a cliff, and the third scene depicts how a starving tigress with her cubs is eating his body.