The form of these tobacco jars, which is akin to the apothecary jar, appears to be Chinese in derivation, especially considering the shape of early wares produced at the Delft factories. In the early 17th Century, Delft specialized in imitating the Chinese wares imported by the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (1602). By the 18th Century the decoration had taken on a European character.
The large size of the jars, and the wide mouths, made them ideal for storing of carottes of tobacco. When tobacco was supplied from a plantation, the leaf was dried and twisted into cords called carottes. This was subsequently shipped in a bale or wooden barrel to the markets of Europe.
On arrival the carottes were separted by the merchants and stored on their shelves in large jars, according to flavour. Each flavour was distinguished by number, although sometimes they were also specified by name. A customer ordered his or her favourite tobacco by weight, and this was usually supplied either in the form of loose tobacco for pipe-smoking, or ground to be taken as snuff. The provision of a brass lid ensured that the contents of the jars were kept airtight (D. Gage, et. al., Tobacco Containers & Accessories, Their Place in Eighteenth Century European Social History, London 1988, pp. 66-67).