Italian Baroque artist
championed both female painters and female subjects during her short life (she died somewhat mysteriously at 27). She opened a painting school where she trained many women, including her younger sisters, and in her own work, she often chose themes that foreground female fortitude.
Timoclea Killing Her Rapist depicts a popular tale described in Plutarch’s biography of Alexander the Great. During Alexander’s invasion of Thebes, a captain in his army rapes the titular Timoclea. Following the assault, the captain asks where her money is hidden. Timoclea leads him to her garden well; as he peers into it, she pushes him in, dropping heavy rocks down the well until he dies.
The painting turns the story on its head, inverting the hierarchy quite literally: The rapist is shown upside down and helpless, feet flailing in the air, as she stands resolutely above him. Sirani, like many Baroque painters, had a flair for drama, but it’s worth noting that most depictions of this story show the aftermath of the violent event: Timoclea standing before Alexander to accept his judgment, usually flanked by her children. Sirani daringly chose to show Timoclea’s justice, rather than Alexander’s mercy.