painted Jezebel

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a painted Jezebel butterfly


From Jezebel, the Phoenician princess and Queen of Ancient Israel who appears in the Old Testament (1 Kings). She incited heresy and lured the Jews away from their God and back to idols. Before her death, knowing that she was soon to be slain, she took the time to fix her hair and paint her face.

From the 16th century, some people believed that makeup was worn only by immoral women; hence the wearing of makeup implied immorality.


painted Jezebel (plural painted Jezebels)

  1. (obsolete, derogatory) A Jezebel; an evil, scheming, shameless or immoral woman, especially one who uses physical attractiveness to evil ends.
    • 1885–1886, Henry James, The Bostonians [], London; New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Co., published 16 February 1886, →OCLC:
      [I]n her absence Olive might give any version of her she chose. "I have told him you are a radical, and you may tell him, if you like, that I am a painted Jezebel."
  2. Delias hyparete, a species of butterfly of the family Pieridae.