A pair of antique Chinese cups have sold for a total of almost £2 million after going under the hammer at London’s famous auction house Sotheby’s.

The painted porcelain pieces, decorated in the famille-rose style, date back 300 years and provide an example of the work by craftsmen at the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen, who had begun to use white enamel from Europe.

The cups feature a painting of a pomegranate spilling seeds.The cups feature a painting of a pomegranate spilling seeds (Sotheby’s/PA)

Selling at £950,000 each on Wednesday (£1.9 million together), they were described by the organisation as “embodying to perfection the refined aesthetic of the Yongzheng Emperor”.

They originally belonged to 20th-century collector Edward T Chow and marked the top lot in the Important Chinese Art sale, which generated a total of £6.4 million.

Though simple in their shape and white colour, their design includes fruiting pomegranate, peach and loquat, representing the “sanduo”, or “three abundances” motif, symbolising long life, plentiful offspring and blessings.

The pictures mark how painters of the time had begun to experiment with depicting naturalism in a way that was not previously possible.