Frantz Grenet

Scowling Sogdian merchants, with pointed noses and deep-set eyes, seem ready to strike a hard bargain in this sixth-century A.D. painting from Shandong province in China. The Sogdians, who inhabited the region around Samarkand, portrayed themselves as a refined people (see, for example, the painting on the cover of this issue). The Chinese, however, viewed them differently—as this satirical painting shows. The Sogdians’ fame (and infamy) resulted from their skill as Silk Road merchants, controlling trade from Byzantium to China.