CRANSTON, R.I. – A 19th-century work of scrimshaw carved on board a whaling ship with an all-African American crew sold for $7,250 ($9,060 with buyer’s premium) at Bruneau & Co. on January 22. The finely worked sperm whale tooth depicts a detailed view of a bustling city and its harbor and the name John & Winthrop, and was estimated at $2,000-$4,000. Complete results are available at LiveAuctioneers.

The captain of the John & Winthrop, a whaling bark operating out of San Francisco in the 1880s and 1890s, was William T. Shorey (1859-1919). Known as Black Ahab to his crew, he was the only African American captain on the West Coast, and his ship the only whaler in the world to be manned entirely by an African American crew. A street in Oakland, where Shorey lived, is named after him. The scene engraved to this tooth likely depicts San Francisco and is accompanied by the words Bark John & Winthrop 1876-1880.

The top lot at the 438-lot Winter Fine & Decorative Art online-only auction was a speculative Old Master drawing. This unsigned 18th-century capriccio rendered in red chalk was cataloged as Italian, but was very much in the manner of the prolific French draughtsman Hubert Robert (1733-1808). He specialized in semi-fictitious picturesque depictions of ruins in Italy and the French countryside – in this case, a rural canal scene with fashionable figures in a punt in the foreground. Sold at the time as finished works rather than preparatory studies, numerous sketches by Robert are rendered in red chalk. Boasting some well-observed passages, this drawing measuring 11 by 15in (28 by 40cm) was estimated at $800-$1,200 but took $26,000 ($32,500 with buyer’s premium). It came for sale from a Newport, Rhode Island estate.

From the same source were two Chinese Export oils on canvas painting depicting shipping in the harbor at Canton (modern-day Guangdong). The best of these showed the famous view of the 13 Hongs of Canton, the warehouses where trade between the West and China was conducted from 1757 to 1842. The scene was popular in China Trade paintings from the mid-18th century, with this one, dating from circa 1830, showing Spanish, American, British, and Dutch flags and showing the buildings that were reconstructed after a catastrophic fire in November 1822. It was estimated at $3,000-$5,000 and hammered for $11,500 ($23,000 with buyer’s premium). The pendant picture showing shipping on the Pearl River was offered separately with an estimate of $2,000-$3,000 and sold at $6,250 ($7,810 with buyer’s premium).

Appealing more to Chinese taste was a late Qing or Republican carving that used the natural contours of a pink coral branch to depict birds perching on the limb of a tree laden with cherry blossoms. It hammered to an online bidder via LiveAuctioneers for $4,600 ($5,750 with buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $300-$500.