Northwest Persia, circa 1880 - wool pile on cotton foundation
Serapi carpets represent the apogee of the Heriz family of designs. The term Serapi was coined by the rug trade to denote a superior grade of Heriz carpet, a type prized for its bold tribal rendering of classic Persian designs and its rich, harmonious coloration. Within the Heriz genre, however, Serapis tend to have even more of this village-rug charm, accompanied by a surprising degree of delicacy as well. They have the same boldness of composition, the same angular geometric drawing sensibility, but also a finesse, control, and spacious clarity that Heriz carpets generally lack. In this superb example the consummate drawing is more reminiscent of a first-rate Fereghan, as is the color harmony with its interplay of warm reds, soft blue, green, salmon tones, and gold. The central medallion composition with corner pieces and the various floral forms all descend from the classical Safavid carpet tradition, but treated here with a sense of geometry closer to Caucasian palace carpets of the seventeenth century. The red-ground ‘turtle’ border provides a strong enclosing frame that is essential to the composition, echoing the dominant use of red in the central medallion. But rarely do Heriz and even Serapis handle this type of border with the grace and clarity we see in this example. An outstanding piece, even within the Serapi group.