The Painted Lady is perhaps the most widely distributed butterfly in the world, found all over Eurasia and the Americas. It looks like a common or garden butterfly, orange/tan with splotches of black fanning out to black with splotches of tan and white. The taxonomic name is Vanessa cardui (Linnaeus). It's also known as the Thistle Butterfly and the Cosmopolitan.

The adults live on thistles, clover, and lucerne (alfalfa) and a few other garden plants. The larvae like all sorts of things, such as thistles, hollyhock, borage, mallow, and peas, but more than a hundred host species have been found.

Clear pictures of it, and the underside of its wings, and its larva, at http://mamba.bio.uci.edu/~pjbryant/biodiv/lepidopt/nymph/plady.htm

The name is also used for, among other things, a variety of geranium (splashes of red with white eye); and a colourful Australian seashell covered in ornate patterns in pink. Its taxonomic name is Phasianella australis and it's also called the pheasant shell. There is a D.W. Griffith short silent film called The Painted Lady.

"Painted lady" is also an archaic term for a prostitute, commonly used in England from the 17th through early 20th centuries.

It derives from Biblical references to Jezebel, commonly characterized as a whore, who is mentioned as having "painted her face" in 2 Kings. This is compounded by the public perception that prostitutes tend to wear excessive amounts of makeup.

"Painted Lady" or "Painted Ladies" (for a collection of them) is the term given to the archtypical Victorian-esque row-houses that are common associated with Bay Area California (though they are found in other places, as well).

The "picture postcard" variety Painted Lady will be a mid-to-late 1800's row-house, though mansions and bigger homes will also fall into this category. As the name implies, the house will be ornately painted; sometimes (but not always) painted in outlandish or "loud" colours, the main stipulation is attention to details: the modlings, trellises, shutters and woodwork will all have focus independent of the siding itself, akin to the detail that one would lavish on a finely crafted childs playhouse.

In many other places, especially the Mid-west, they are also referred to as Gingerbread Houses.

All of the wings,
so carefully picked,
pinned,
adjusted and posed.
Beauty frozen,
preserved in a frame.

In patterns,
based on those
the gods had already granted,
these beauties are placed.

Such gorgeous colors,
such beautiful creatures,
destroyed for aesthetics.

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