When you think of a female painter who was raped and acted out her rage on canvas, Artemesia Gentileschi of the 17th century will likely come to mind for her bloody “Judith and the Head of Holofernes.”

But she wasn’t the only woman from that century who railed against rape in paint. Not as well-known as Artemesia is today, Elizabetta Sirani was all the rage in her day.

“Beyond Artemesia”

Sirani was so beloved in her time that people traveled from outside her hometown of Bologna to visit her studio to watch her work. All of which accounts for the 2003 Book “Beyond Artemesia” by Anna Banti and the latest book from the Getty Museum: “Elizabetta Sirani” by Adelina Modesti.

And now this month, for the first time, a one-woman exhibit of Sirani’s work is showing outside of Italy at Robert Simon Fine Art Gallery in New York. Forbes magazine headlined this event “Why Baroque painter Elizabetta Sirani Won’t let you forget her.”

There are many reasons that make Sirani hard to forget. I’m thinking of her painting about the raped noblewoman called Timoclea. The work is based on Plutarch’s record of a captain in Alexander the Great’s army who raped the noblewomen.

But there was more to the story than the assault. And that part was Sirani focus. As the story continued, the rapist demanded the noblewoman’s money and jewelry.

When Timoclea told him that her money and jewels were hidden in a garden well and he leaned over to check, she pushed him over, headfirst, to his death.

That’s the history that Sirani chose to paint.

She had a reputation for history painting. As Modesti pointed out in her book that Sirani made more pictures of actual events than any other woman. She holds this record even though she died at age of 27.

But Sirani also has the distinction of being the only artist who painted Timoclea’s retaliation to the rapist.

Last year you might recall my writing that the artist had a reputation for what British writer Billie Walker called the “revenge of the oppressed woman.”

And if in the words of playwright William Congreve are true - “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” - that goes double for a woman raped.

Retaliation paintings by women are rare, and in Sirani’s case, it’s also unexpected.

While Artemesia was a rape victim who put her reaction in another woman’s story about beheading Holofernes, Sirani never suffered assault.

Even so, she did more than make a painting about a victim of rape. Rather than describe the crime, she described the revenge for the crime.

With such an image of retaliation by a female victim, you have to wonder if that’s why Sirani was so popular in her time that her funeral was made a public event for all of Bologna to attend.

The good ol’ days

If “Timoclea” and Sirani’s other works tagged “revenge of the oppressed woman” reason for her popularity in 17th-century Bologna, then hers was a more advanced culture than ours. How else to explain polls that say former U.S. president Donald Trump, found guilty of rape, is a strong contender for re-election?