Maximilian Heyl came from a wealthy family of industrialists who acquired a great fortune through the leather industry in Worms, Germany. Together with his wife, Doris von Heyl, he amassed a large collection of art which included antiquities, Old Master paintings and sculpture. After the death of his wife in 1930, most of the collection was sold at auction at Galerie Hugo Helbing in Munich. A number of these pieces can now be found in prominent institutions around the world, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Antikensammlung in Berlin and the National Museum in Warsaw.
The vase painter Hermonax was a pupil of the great Berlin Painter. Side A depicts a maenad holding a thyrsos in one hand and brandishing a snake in the other hand at a dancing satyr. The reverse depicts a maenad, running with purpose whilst holding a thyrsos in her left hand and with her right hand outstretched. Despite the threatening gesture of the snake and the determined stance of the maenads, both their faces are serene and charming due to Hermonax's unique way of drawing the profile eye, which M. Robertson notes in The Art of Vase Painting in Classical Athens, Cambridge, 1992, p. 176, is most closely paralleled in the work of the Amphitrite Painter. The scene showcases the aggression between the sexes but also the typical comical element to a Dionysiac scene: the maenad advances menacingly towards the seemingly unaware dancying satyr and the second maenad runs away as if she were being attacked, but we remain in suspense as to whether she is escaping from the satyr or from her companion with the snake. Hermonax enjoyed pursuit-scenes and similar iconography can be seen in many works by him, such as the Nolan amphora at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Inv. no. 601.
The shape of the vase is termed a Nolan amphora after Nola, Italy, where the first examples of the shape were discovered. Nolan amphorae have a distinctive shape, which is characterized by an ovoid body, an elongated flaring neck, an inverted lip with grooves for a lid, and handles that rise from the shoulder and join the piece at the base of the neck. They were most likely used to store wine, olives, or oil.