What Will We Leave Behind?

390px-Raphael_-_Madonna_dell_Granduca

I remember the day my art history professor began the class with this slide. The lights went out, this image appeared large on the screen, and the class let out an audible sigh. It’s a touching image, one so pure in its beauty and the delicate touch of a mother and child. This is the delicate beauty of Raphael’s work that captured the heart of a friend of mine, Hasan Niyazi.

Yesterday this friend and fellow blogger passed away. He was just 38, just one year older than Raphael was when he died. Unfortunately, he had a medical condition that returned and took his life very suddenly. What became apparent within hours through the enormous response on Twitter, where he had actively engaged with people who shared his interests, was that he had made a strong impact on many, many people. He was an extraordinary person, the type that we rarely encounter in our lives but once we do, we never forget.

I was fortunate to have developed a friendship with Hasan that was based first on our shared passion for Florence and the Italian Renaissance, and later on our work and time together in Florence last year. Hasan connected with others. What made so many people gravitate toward him in the online community were his profound and kind words, something that is rare in the often fast-talking, self-promotional world of social media.

Hasan Niyazi

Florens2012 team members in the Palazzo Vecchio on our last night in Florence

When I met him in person last November, I was on the receiving end of his talent for cooperation and his endless passion for his subject. Every morning, the Florens 2012 bloggers awoke to a “good morning” message from Hasan highlighting our goals and the most interesting events of the day–his gestures to keep us organized and connected were typical of his generous nature. On our first day, Hasan, Sucheta, and I took a long walk to San Miniato al Monte, Hasan talking almost the whole time about his life in Australia, our shared love of Florence, and of course Raphael. We all spent a lot of time together during that special week, and his special character left an impression on all of us. (Hasan’s excellent summary of Florens2012 is here).

Florence 069

The view of Florence from San Miniato al Monte. Hasan was by my side as I took this.

Hasan was also a true innovator. He made a significant contribution to the pursuit of open access to knowledge as well as the future of art history by encouraging an evidence-based approach to such art historical topics as attribution and helping to develop digital resources, thereby pulling art history away from tradition and into the digital 21st century.

Hasan Niyazi

Hasan showing Florens2012 member Melissa his project in a trattoria on our last night in Florence

He was a self-taught art historian and was invited by professors and scholars to art history conferences. Despite his extraordinary skill in this area, his intention was always to make such information easily accessible to the public; he was never condescending or arrogant as so many with a similar intellect might be. He also had an admirable work ethic, one which I think was visible in everything he did. He never seemed to complain; instead, Hasan got things done, always with humility and in the spirit of cooperation. His main project, Open Raphael Online, was meant to be a complete collection of information and images of Raphael’s work, based on carefully executed research. Creating a space where anyone could find everything about Raphael was his primary goal, one which he will sadly not be able to finish. As we can see from this outline on ORO, despite the hours upon hours he had already invested, he had only just begun.

3pp

Hasan made a name for himself in the world of blogging and art history, but in his day-to-day work, he was a physical therapist. He told me that he enjoyed his work and the connections he made with his patients. While his friends and colleagues around the world grieve this loss, it’s important to keep Hasan’s family, co-workers, and patients in our thoughts.

When things like this happen, they make us take stock of our own lives. Because he made such an impact on so many people, his untimely death made me think about what we leave behind when we die. Hasan leaves so much behind. His character will never be forgotten by those who knew him. It is already inspiring people to act with more kindness and connect with others as he so gracefully did. He also leaves his blog, Three Pipe Problem, and Open Raphael Online, both of such extremely high quality that they can and should serve as a resource for art history students and scholars. Such a wide impact is rare for such a short life.

I think that the words of Alexandra Korey, a close friend of Hasan’s, capture his essence well:

There are people who connect people.
Who are selfless in helping others.
Who work hard to surpass what life throws at them
And search daily for a way to reach their dreams.

And one of Hasan’s last tweets was the following Keats line, which he called “sublime”; may it remind us to recognize the beauty all around us.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.

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20 Responses to What Will We Leave Behind?

  1. Alexandra 10/30/2013 at 12:43 am #

    Yes.

  2. Bringingtravelhome 10/30/2013 at 7:56 am #

    What a beautiful tribute Jenna. I lost a close friend this year due to an unexpected sudden death and it’s very hard, especially when they seem In the prime of their lives. My condolences. I should have been an art history major , or at least doubled with my journalism major, so I appreciate what he has done. By looking at the Madonna image at the top of this post , it will bring one peace and comfort.

    • Jenna 10/30/2013 at 3:48 pm #

      Thanks, Monique, and my condolences to you about your friend.

  3. Suzy 10/30/2013 at 8:18 am #

    Thank you for introducing me to Hasan and his work. It sounds like you were lucky to have known him and especially fortunate to spend time with him in Florence.
    Suzy recently posted..Crossing Through Ancient Doors in NaxosMy Profile

  4. Renuka 10/30/2013 at 9:57 am #

    Nice to know Hasan! Even though he’s not there, his work will remain forever for us to learn from and get inspired.
    Renuka recently posted..Jaisalmer Fort – In Pictures (Part II)My Profile

  5. Cindy 10/30/2013 at 10:28 am #

    Ah, Jenna, that was such a heartfelt & eloquent tribute to your friend Hasan. How wonderful that you were able to know him and spend that week with him just a year ago… His friendship was a gift that you will hold dear forever.

    Even I was touched by Hasan, when you told me about him in such glowing terms during my trip to Florence earlier this month – and helped me to appreciate the Raphael paintings I saw even more.

    As you know, my own brother died at 25 while serving in the Peace Corps in Iran. In the intervening 40+ years, I have realized that everyone who was touched by Bill continues to keep a piece of him with them. He too was a very special, giving person, and when people tell me that they still love and think of him, I realize that he lives on.

    I loved Alexandra’s words about Hasan. What an amazing man he was. I’m grateful to know him through you.

    • Jenna 10/30/2013 at 4:02 pm #

      Thanks for the support and for reading my thoughts on someone even though you’d never met him. <3

  6. Alexandra 10/30/2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Dear Jenna,

    Thank you for a beautiful post about a beautiful soul. You are very right–we must keep his family, friends, patients and co-workers in mind at this time. Looking at the tributes that have been pouring in online it is easy to see how many lives he touched in that community, just imagine the void this leaves for his loved ones and those closest to him.

    We are all better off for having known Hasan and the spirit of cooperation that he fostered should be foremost in our minds as we try to move forward to do justice to his memory.

    On a Raphael note, I love that you chose the Madonna del Granduca for this post. The Christ Child’s hand on his mother’s heart is one of the most tender and moving images I can think of. Their pure, loving, shared embrace will now always remind me of Hasan’s gracious spirit–thank you for that.

    Alexandra L.

    • Jenna 10/30/2013 at 4:04 pm #

      Thank you for your comment, Alexandra. I actually read something Hasan’s sister wrote on his FB page, and it was the most powerful words I encountered since he died. So much beauty yet so much grief in her words.
      I also love the tenderness of the mother and child in this image. Hasan actually mentioned a couple of times how much he appreciated that in Raphael’s work. However, he especially loved this one: http://www.3pipe.net/2013/08/Raphael-madonna-goldfinch.html#more

  7. Joan Bartos 10/31/2013 at 1:39 am #

    What a beautiful tribute, Jenna. No doubt Hasan’s light continues to shine and his amazing life continues to inspire others.

    • Jenna 11/01/2013 at 10:02 am #

      Thanks, Joan!

  8. Cassie 11/04/2013 at 7:56 pm #

    Oh Jenna, what a moving tribute to someone who devoted his life to educating the world about the art he loved so much. And so young… I’m so sorry for your loss.
    Cassie recently posted..Day of the Dead in EcuadorMy Profile

    • Jenna 11/05/2013 at 5:16 pm #

      Thank you, Cassie

  9. Charu 11/07/2013 at 12:38 pm #

    What a beautiful tribute, Jenna, very moving! I am sorry for your loss at such a young age
    Charu recently posted..At Key Largo Chocolates, the Spotlight is on the PieMy Profile

    • Jenna 11/10/2013 at 8:28 pm #

      Thank you, Charu.

  10. Hasret 11/14/2013 at 6:27 am #

    Dearest Jenna,

    I wanted to personally thank you for the beautifully written tribute to my brother, Hasan. It has taken me a bit of time to gather my thoughts and respond to you. Your kindness and sincerity is something beautiful and rarely encountered. I am so glad my brother met you in person at a time of his life where he was having tremendous changes, growth and realisation of dreams and aspirations. Words cant accurately describe how I feel at the moment. I wish I was able to, so eloquently describe how I feel, like you and other dear friends of his have. Such a loving network of friends, something many people dont have. Thank you for being his friend and appreciating his work. I am completely honoured with the outpour of grief and pure admiration for my brother. I know he would be as well. He was always so gentle and humble. I miss him terribly, my thoughts of him keep his memory alive.

    With much love, Hasret

    • Jenna 11/15/2013 at 9:01 am #

      Hasret, Thank you for leaving such a nice comment about your brother. I have two children and have seen the bond between siblings, so I know that this must be a terribly difficult time for you. You and all those who love Hasan have been in my thoughts since his passing. From what I knew of him, “gentle and humble” seem like two words that describe his character perfectly. And I can say that the reaction of so many people, including many who had never met him in person, is unique–he clearly had an impact on people that is rare and very special.
      With sympathy and best wishes,
      Jenna

  11. Colleen Lanin 01/10/2014 at 8:47 pm #

    I’m sorry for the loss of your friend, Jenna. I’ve been experiencing a lot of wake-up calls to live my best life lately; this is one of them.
    Colleen Lanin recently posted..How & Why to Host a Vision Board PartyMy Profile

    • Jenna 01/12/2014 at 8:41 am #

      Yes, these tragedies do have the positive result of making us appreciate life more.

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  1. RIP, Hasan Niyazi | - 10/30/2013

    […] edit: See also the interesting remembrances by Jenna Francisco, Alexandra Korey, and David […]

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