Hasan Niyazi, a fine blogger and even finer person

I first encountered Hasan Niyazi’s blog Three Pipe Problem in May of 2010 after he emailed me through the contact form. He said lovely things about my blog, a kindness that I would come to learn was entirely characteristic of this generous, open-minded, curious and warm man, and asked me for feedback on his own even though after less than six months of posting he already had far more traffic than I did.

My review was basically a drawn out version of “wow, what a great blog.” I loved how he viewed contemporary pop culture through an art historical lens, like in his incomparable videogame review A Medici Assassin in a Digital Renaissance: Assassin’s Creed II, his post on Donatello’s David which points out the influence of the piece on manga and game design, and in his riveting recaps and analyses of the first two seasons of the Showtime series The Borgias.

I was also impressed by how in depth his posts were while never feeling dense or requiring any effort to finish. Although my average post length had increased significantly from my early days of two sentences, a link and a blockquote, at the time I still kept things short unless I had a specific assignment like a contest entry or if I’d been drawn down a historical rabbit hole. Hasan’s fearless if-you-build-it-they-will-come willingness to pursue his interests as far as they took him inspired me to take a plunge into longer, more research-intensive pieces a little more often.

It was his passion for art history, especially that of Renaissance Italy and Raphael in particular (we had a lovely Raphael geekout in the comments of this post), that shone through in every post. He was a scientist by education which grounded his writing in a rigorous, evidence-based approach, but there was nothing dry or mechanical about it. The title of his blog was a Sherlock Holmes reference from The Red Headed League:

“As a rule,” said Holmes, “the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to identify. But I must be prompt over this matter.”
“What are you going to do, then?” I asked.
“To smoke,” he answered. “It is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me for fifty minutes.”

Like Holmes, Hasan took his time to unravel Gordian knots with deliberation and thoughtfulness rather than just cutting through them, bringing together his scientific background and love of art in all forms to illuminate a subject in a way that appealed to professional art historians as much as to teenagers touring the Louvre. From an email he sent me a few years back:

I had a 15 year old Belgian kid write to me the other day – explaining how he’d been in Paris with his family and on a Louvre Tour. When they passed the Pastoral Concert [a painting currently attributed to Titian but previously thought to be by Giorgione and whose authorship is still debated], the tour guide just gave the standard description about it. The kid questioned him about the attribution to Varro and how the figures are not a mystery at all if you’ve read Varro. Rather than get angry, the tour guide bought him one of those expensive catalogue books and encouraged him to pursue his interest in the field. Wow!! All because he read my article [Titian and Giorgione: ethereal picnic with a difference].

Hasan Niyazi died unexpectedly on October 28th, 2013. To celebrate his love of art history and his commitment to open online access to art historical resources, bloggers who knew and loved him have dedicated entries to him today, the 531st anniversary of Raphael’s birth and the 494th anniversary of his death. It’s a wonderful collection of work that you can find listed here.

The Three Pipe Problem blog archives will remain as a testimony to the brilliance of his intellect, the generosity of his spirit and wide-eyed wonder at the beauty in this world.

11 thoughts on “Hasan Niyazi, a fine blogger and even finer person

  1. “After less than six months of posting, he already had far more traffic than I did.” Sorry, the room is spinning… Hasan always fantasized out loud (out loud by e-mail, that is to say) about the reach of The History Blog in a wistful, “Well, maybe some day…” tone. Do you want an inside trade secret? Whenever Hasan felt the need to boost his numbers (sweeps week?), he would say, “Time for another ‘The Borgias’ post”!

    1. 😆 That’s genius. The post about poop gave my stats a boost last week, but those sorts of stories aren’t regular enough (*snicker*) to enlist handily. I had only seen the first season of The Borgias but I still read all his reviews because they were awesome, oftentimes better than the series, frankly.

  2. I would not have received half the history books that arrived from publishers, had it not been for Hasan. All I had to do was review each book in a post of 800 words, then I could keep each book.

    Nice going, Hasan 🙂

  3. Thanks so much for writing this tribute. Hasan also shared with me that story about the Louvre guide purchasing a catalog for a kid that read Hasan’s blog. I hope that his blog archive continues to inspire people who stumble across it. I still use it as a resource. Plus, I feel like his enthusiasm still encourages me to be inquisitive.

  4. I did not know this brilliant young man but your tribute to him is exquisite. So sad to lose someone in their prime. I will now go to his blog and get to know more of him. Thank you.

  5. I love your blog it always has something new for me. This tribute is a wonderful example. I will now go look for his blog and see what I missed. We lost a wonderful person I can tell.

  6. It’s strange, you know. I happened to stumble across your blog while looking up information on Otzi (the Iceman) – I have a particular obsession with the Kennis twins, who created such a stunning portrayal of Otzi (and many other prehistoric people) – and then I started to read your column about Hanan. His untimely death is so sad and such a loss. Like others have said, your tribute draws me to reading his blog. He might be touched to know that his legacy lives on beyond him.

  7. I love blogs dedicated to art and history. This is the first time I got oriented with his blog. He is truly an amazing individual. His love for art and history is truly magical. I would help spread his passion too.

  8. Does anyone know why Hasan’s blog “Three Pipe Problem” is no longer there. I’m sorry he won’t be immortalized on the internet.

  9. It’s very difficult to explain about the internet friendship I had with Hasan Niyazi.
    I know how busy he kept himself, but he always took an amazing amount of time to communicate about a self portrait of Raphael that I have owned for fifty years. He was in the middle of introducing me to Raphael authorities, throughout Europe and America, those who might contribute some techn8cal information concerning my painting, when, sadly, he passed. I have been so upset, to lose an extremely talented, and brilliant friend. His sensitivities, and kindness were obvious in his communications with me.

    I miss talking to Hasan about Raphael, and much more. I was devistated with his loss, but could retrieve little information about his passing. He seemed to be secretive about his personal life, but very open to me about his feelings, and his love for Raphael, and his amazing life.
    I miss Hasan. We had so much more to share.
    Thank you, for the opportunity, to write about him.

    Jimmy Nicholas

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