Named after Aldo Branca by A.D. Trendall in 1970, this calyx-krater is the name-vase of the Branca Painter. It is one of only a handful of surviving works by this artist, who forms part of the Berlin-Branca Group. The group precedes the work of the Darius Painter, one of the principal Apulian vase-painters of the third quarter of the fourth century B.C.
The obverse scene depicts Herakles, seated on a lion-skin under a tree near the centre of the composition with a club in his right hand and quiver under his other arm. He faces Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, who gestures towards him in conversation. A man, possibly Iolaos, leans on a pillar to the left of Herakles. To the right of Hippolyta there is a mounted Amazon, leading a horse, presumably the queen's. This is possibly a representation of the ninth labour of Herakles, in which, according to myth, the hero was given the task of stealing a magical belt from Hippolyta. At first the queen was very impressed by the hero's super-human powers and decides to willingly give him the girdle. The goddess Hera, however, appears as an Amazon and spreads the rumour that Herakles is planning to kidnap the queen. The Amazons, in an attempt to protect their queen, attack Herakles and in the fight that ensues he kills Hippolyta, fights back the Amazons and leaves with her belt, completing his task.
As common on larger Apulian vases with mythological subjects, the scene has been divided into two registers and above there is a seated Aphrodite, a small winged Eros, and a seated Amazon. The reverse depicts a nude Dionysus, seated between a satyr and a maenad, with an Eros above.
The vase is closely paralleld with two other vases by the same painter. One, a calyx-krater representing the unbinding of Prometheus, in the Antikensammlung Berlin (inventory no. 1969,9), and the other, a bell-krater in Röhsska Konstslöjdmuseet, Copenhagen (inventory no. 13,71). The decorative motifs on the body and the rendering of the drapery and hairstyles of the figures are similar.