Ninon de l'Enclos was a French author, courtesan and patron of the arts. She was a popular figure in the salons, and her own drawing room became a literary centre. She encouraged the young Molière and in her will she left some money for the son of her accountant, later known as François Marie Arouet de Voltaire, to buy books. She began to take a number of rich and notable courtesans including the king's cousin the Great Condé, Gaspard de Coligny, and François, Duke of La Rochefoucauld. She was imprisoned in a convent in 1656 at the behest of Anne of Austria, Queen of France but was later visited by Christina, former Queen of Sweden who wrote to Cardinal Mazarin on Ninon's behalf and arranged for her release. She retired from her life as a courtesan in the late 1660s and concentrated on her literary life hosting her salon at the Hôtel Sagonne. She befriended Jean-Baptiste Racine and became a close friend with the devout Françoise d'Aubigné, better known as Madame de Maintenon, the lady-in-waiting who would later become the second wife of Louis XIV.
Another version of the present miniature dated 1845 is in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. See A. Le Harivel, National Gallery of Ireland. Illustrated Summary Catalogue of Drawings, Watercolours and Miniatures, Dublin, 1983, p. 17, no. 3618.