Louis Hercule Timoléon de Cossé, Duke of Brissac (1734-1792) held high status in the courts of Kings Louis XV and Louis XVI, was governor of Paris and commander-in-chief in the constitutional guard of Louis XVI. In 1792 he was arrested on suspicion of upholding royalist ideals and influencing the king to reign with an anti-revolutionary spirit. He was imprisoned at Orleans and later transferred to Versailles for his hearing at the High Court. During the transfer he managed to escape, but was later captured and killed during the September Massacres at Versailles for his devotion to the king. Brissac's head was mutilated, stuck on a stake and thrown on the carpet of his mistress, the notorious Countess Dubarry.
Two slightly earlier gold boxes with miniatures of the Duke, also by Le Tellier, were sold Sotheby's, London, 11 November 1993, lot 85, and Christie's, London, 25 May 2004, lot 139.
The present miniature is after a large oil portrait at Versailles Castle (inv. 9077), illustrated both in C. Constans, Musée national du Château de Versailles. Les peintures, Paris, 1995, II, p. 1089, no. 6158, and in the exhibition catalogue Madame Du Barry. De Versailles à Louveciennes, Marly-le-Roi, Musée-promenade, 1992, p. 169. A copy after the Versailles painting was sold Sotheby's, Amsterdam, 6 May 1997, then attributed to Carle van Loo.