The oval portrait, painted during Franklin's life, presents him at three-quarter view, with head facing forward but eyes turned to look at the viewer. A slight, rueful smile is on his face. He is in casual dress, wearing a fur-collared green coat over a vest or jacket and shirt. His hair is long and loose, spread over the coat collar; he wears round-lens spectacles. The painting is not signed or dated, but was believed to have been painted for Madame Helvétius, his close friend in France. The attribution is supported by the inscription "Vanloo Pinxt" beneath the aquatint, taken from the portrait by Pierre Michel Alix.
Believed to be a life portrait painted in France