Azerbaijan Province , Northwest Persia
The term “ Serapi “ does not designate a place of origin, unlike most other oriental rug type names. There is no town or village in the Heriz area so named that produced these carpets . It is the best to use the term as a quality grade of certain Heriz pieces woven from the 1890’s until about 1910’s .
Virtually all Serapis are in the 9’x12’ to 12’x18’ size , with no scatters and very few runners . They are basically high quality Heriz carpets . The Turkish ( symmetric ) knot and cotton foundations are standard . The high quality wool pile is cut low and the double warp weave makes it stand upright , unlike the recumbent nap of lesser Heriz works . The handle is leathery and firm , never pliable or floppy . The natural dyes are clear , but not harsh or loud . Rich madder red and deep indigo are the most prominent colours . The dozen or so secondaries include ivory , rust , greens , rose , light blue , yellow and brown .
The designs tend to be complex , unique versions of the medallion and corner pattern popular with Heriz weavers , but with more clever and individualistic touches than in the lower grade carpets . No two Serapis are identical . The weavers work from cloth sketches which suggest a rendition rather than dictate it as scale – paper cartoons do . The highly adept artisans weave tighter , more uniform carpets without wavy sides , wiggling wefts or misplaced medallions . But there are plenty of naïve touches revealed in a carefull examination . The designs are slightly curvelinear and it is likely that the Serapi grade was created to be a somewhat less expensive version of the exactly contemporary Ferahan Sarouk . Certainly the markets for the two types substantially overlapped .
As to the name , one faintly plausible theory is that American dealers coined it on the analogy to Mexican Saltillo Serape medallion blankets . The term is unheard of in Europe and seems to be a post-1950 creation . The type disappeared with WWI .
No Serapi is cheap , but they wear well and daelers often put substantial sums into restorations .Serapi carpets are an exception to the minimalistic , modernist aesthetic trend in décor . The expansive and bold patterns may dominate a room , yet the colours are just restrained enough to enhance virtually any design scheme .