Offering of the Zakat signed and dated 'C.Biseo 1870' oil on panel 64.77 x 48.2cm (25 1/2 x 19in). Painted in 1870.
PROVENANCE: Sale, Sotheby's Milan, 4 December 2006, lot 102
In Offering of the Zakat, Italian painter Cesare Biseo illustrates one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the act of charitable giving, or zakat. Often compared to the system of alms, zakat principally serves as the welfare contribution to needy Muslims, and it is a duty of the Islamic community to not only collect zakat, but to fairly distribute it. Credited towards the success of reducing rural poverty in the Muslim administrations of Spain throughout history, zakat was given in the form of land by wealthy European owners and helped to increase agriculture. This method also took place during Persia's early Islamic history and progress was achieved both economically and socially.
Biseo's depiction is more aligned with the welfare of the every day, the giving of alms to the poor as illustrated by the cloaked figure standing above the seated figure against the cracked steps of the mosque. A busy crowd underneath the tented alleyway suggests the mosque's centrality and importance in society, not only as a place of worship, but as a place to gather. As a means of spiritual purification, the act of zakat is less romantic than necessary, and Biseo's work displays the integrity of a people concerned with goodness and prosperity.