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Antique Serapi rugs – The Persian Serapi rugs belong to a family of regional Persian rugs. These rugs were produced in the Iranian province of Eastern Azerbaijan and the area surrounding Heriz.
The village of Serab (or Sarab), where Serapi rugs are generally attributed to, is located south of the region responsible for the eponymous Heriz rugs – the region of North West Persia – and less than 80 miles east of Tabriz. The term Serapi is often applied to the finest antique rug examples from the Heriz area. However, the Serapi designation is a hot topic that is contested by many experts. Nevertheless, Serapi rugs particularly those produced prior to the turn of the 20th century are in high demand today.
The Serapi rug market designation originates from the village of Serab, which was known for producing extremely fine carpets decorated with traditional patterns and loosely spaced designs that prevailed in the area before workshops began catering to foreign tastes. Serapi rugs are chic, often with open designs. These unique rugs represent a wonderful combination of tribal patterns from the Caucasus along with early Safavid influences. Unlike the boldly colored and lavishly decorated rugs produced in the greater Northwest Persian region, Serapi rugs and Bakshaish rugs feature a variety of symbolic patterns rendered in a combination of light colors, neutrals and stark camel brown.
Antique Serapi rugs were made by small workshops and families, which resulted in formal Persian carpets as well as those with rustic tribal influences. Local production methods contributed to the characteristic abrash that adds a textural appearance to the stark field and contrasting decorations seen in many Persian Serapi rugs. These fine antique carpets were made in many sizes and shapes ranging from elongated corridor carpets to highly desirable room-size rugs. Persian Serapi rugs feature clear colors, creamy un-dyed fleece beautifully tempered reds, warm earth tones and concentrated blues. Largely produced before 1910, antique Serapi rugs feature rustic patterns, exceptional colors, high-quality wool and impeccable construction, which resulted in their coveted reputation for quality and value.
The region where the Serapi rugs are crafted is in North West Iran. Years ago when the largest number of these hand woven works of art were being crafted, they were made in the same region responsible for Bakshaish rugs and Heriz Rugs: the region of Heriz.
Unlike most carpets that are antique, the Serapi rugs are not named after the village where they were created.
The roots of carpet weaving have been traced back to somewhere around 5,500 B.C. That said, Persian rugs did not start to be really well known until around the world until the late 16th century. Some argue that the Heriz Serapi rug and the Serapi rug was once been labeled as a Serab rug, a separate antique rug style.
Those people claim that when the American merchants began to buy and trade in these items they translated the name incorrectly and the Serab rugs were renamed “Serapi” (because of this mispronunciation of the word). This may be the truth of how the name changed.
But there is also a tale of a Prince arriving in India aboard a ship called the Serapis and that his visit inspired the people of the region to call the carpets Serapi after his ship. regardless of if this is true or not, that is a much more romantic story.
The Serapi is well known for its strength and durability. There is a folk tale that says the carpets are so strong because the sheep that produce the wool drink from streams that have copper in the water. The tale goes on to explain that the copper from the water is supposed to influence the wool that the sheep produce and make it stronger than ordinary wool from other sheep.
But that is a folk tale and while it sound nice and interesting, it probably is nothing more than fiction. The truth is that late 19th century Serapi rugs were made by hand and the weave is tight and compressed.
The wool that was used was generally of a high grad and each knot was strategically made and pulled to the exact tightness needed to form a carpet that is strong and will stand the test of time.
You will notice that almost every Serapi carpet has a central medallion motif. This was a common motif of the area and the time. Many of the Serapi designs are created from the natural wool colors.
Browns, blacks, and the creamy tan colors were very popular in the areas where Serapi carpets were created and the fact that the wool was left un-dyed also increased the durability of the rug.
Some of the Serapi’s wool was dyed to create brighter and different colored motifs. The dyes that were used were cultivated from natural elements that were prevalent in the area.
The natural plants and flowers of the area were crushed and boiled with the wool to create colored threads for the creation of the colored motifs. A Serapi is a priceless treasures from a time gone by.