Scrimshaw whale’s tooth carved on the John & Winthrop, $7250 (5700) at Bruneau & Co.

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The finely worked sperm whale tooth depicts a detailed view of a bustling city and its harbour and the name John & Winthrop was expected to bring $2000-4000 in Cranston, Rhode Island, on January 22.

The captain of the John & Winthrop, a whaling bark operating out of San Francisco in the 1880s-90s, 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.


Scrimshaw whale’s tooth carved on the John & Winthrop, $7250 (5700) at Bruneau & Co.

A street in Oakland, where Shorey lived, is named after him. The scene engraved to this tooth probably depicts San Francisco and is accompanied by the words Bark John & Winthrop 1876-1880.

Unsigned 'Old Master'

The top lot at the 438-lot Winter Fine & Decorative Art online-only auction was a speculative Old Master drawing.


An 18th century capriccio red chalk drawing in the manner of Hubert Robert, $26,000 (£20,500) at Bruneau & Co.

This unsigned 18th century capriccio rendered in red chalk was catalogued as Italian but was very much in the manner of the prolific French draughtsman Hubert Robert (1733-1808). Sold at the time as finished works rather than preparatory studies, numerous sketches by Robert of semi-fictitious picturesque depictions of ruins in Italy and the French countryside are rendered in red chalk.

Boasting some well-observed passages, this drawing of a rural canal scene with fashionable figures in a punt in the foreground measuring 11 x 15in (28 x 40cm) was guided at $800-1200 but took $26,000 (£20,500). It came for sale from a Newport, Rhode Island, estate.


Chinese export oil of the Hongs of Canton, $11,500 (£8700) at Bruneau & Co.

From the same source, two Chinese export oils on canvas painting depicted shipping in the harbour 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 1757-1842. The scene was popular in China Trade paintings from the mid-18th century onwards with this one, showing Spanish, American, British and Dutch flags, dating from c.1830 showing the buildings rebuilt after a catastrophic fire in November 1822.

It was estimated at $3000-5000 took $11,500 (£8700). The pendant picture showing shipping on the Pearl River was offered separately with a guide of $2000-3000 and sold at $6250 (£4900).