The present bowl belongs to a group of Jun vessels comprising narcissus bowls, flower pots, and zun-shaped vases with prominent flanges, where each vessel has been incised or stamped with a Chinese numeral on the base. The numbers range from one to ten, and according to the Nanyao biji (Notes of the Nanyao), composed during the Qianlong reign, the numbers are indications that pair specific flower pots with stands. In recent years, scholars have also noted that the numbers appear to have an indirectly proportional relationship with the sizes of the vessels, with ten representing the smallest and one the largest. Jun 'narcissus' bowls of this group appear in three styles, and are traditionally catalogued as 'brush washers' though the function of these bowls might well be stands for flower pots. The first has a circular mouth rim and 'nail-head' bosses on the exterior, such as the present example. The second style has six petal lobes, such as the 'number nine' example in the National Palace Museum, illustrated in A Panorama of Ceramics in the Collection of the National Palace Museum: Chun Ware, Taipei, 1999, p. 116-17, no. 41. And the third has six molded bracket lobes at the flattened rim, such as the 'number four' bowl, also from the Linyushanren Collection, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 2 December 2015, lot 2812.
The present bowl appears to be one of the very few 'narcissus bowls' of 'nail-head' design that is inscribed with the numeral 'three'. One example from the collection of Captain Vivian Bulkeley-Johnson, the Mount Trust, was sold at Sotheby’s New York, 23 March 2011, lot 514; and a second example was sold at Sotheby’s London, 9 November 2005, lot 277. It is interesting to note that due to their rarity, 'number three' examples are absent from several major institutions with very comprehensive 'numbered' Jun collections, such as the Palace Museum, Beijing, the National Palace Museum, Taipei, and the Harvard University Art Museum.
For Jun bowls similar in form to that of the present example, but with different numerals, see the examples in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 32 - Porcelain of the Song Dynasty (I), Hong Kong, 1996, pp. 28-33, nos. 24-28; as well as further examples in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated ibid., A Panorama of Ceramics in the Collection of the National Palace Museum: Chun Ware, pp. 88-107, nos. 27-36.