The subject of the figural decoration of this hydria is Herakles and Iolaos slaying the Hydra.
Painted in black figure, the scene occupies the upper register on the body of the vessel between the two side handles. Herakles approaches from the right grasping one of the heads of the nine-headed, bearded Hydra with his left hand and raising his club with his right. Herakles is armored in a corslet and greaves. To his right, a large crab pinches Herakles' heel. Iolaos rushes forward from the left grasping one of the Hydra heads with his left hand and preparing to cut it off with the sickle he brandishes in his right. Underneath Iolaos is a small fire. On the reverse of the vessel, two sphinxes flank the vertical back handle, striding away from the center.
The ornamental decoration on the hydria consists of tongues surrounding the mouth and adorning the foot; a pattern of double lotus leaves and eight pointed stars around the neck; a frieze of ivy decorating the shoulder; and a lotus-palmette frieze on the body underneath the register with the figural decoration. On the base is a pattern of upward pointing rays and on the rim of the vessel is chain of diamonds. Palmettes decorate the area where the side handles are attached.
This hydria is one of a small group of painted vases produced at Caere in Etruria. All these vases appear to come from one workshop, which may have employed two artists. Caeretan hydriai display many of the basic elements of Greek vase-painting reinterpreted for an Etruscan market, using a more vivid range of colors and emphasizing the importance of floral ornament in the decoration. They are unusual in that the artist used a template for the floral decoration, a technique not otherwise known in Greek vase-painting.