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American Paintings and Sculpture
Artist: Joseph Stella, American, born Italy, 1877–1946

Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras

1913–14

Oil on canvas

77 × 84 3/4 in. (195.6 × 215.3 cm)
Gift of Collection Société Anonyme
1941.689
The Italian-born Joseph Stella wrote that Coney Island presented the “most intense arabesque … [of the] surging crowd and the revolving machines generating … violent, dangerous pleasures.” This cacophony of electric lights, gyrating dancers, and radiating steel beams of the Ferris wheel and roller coasters was his first American subject. Fragments of honky-tonk signs make reference to the resort’s popular attractions, such as Steeplechase Park and Feltman’s restaurant, where the hotdog was invented. The letters C-O-M allude to the commedia dell’arte, the European equivalent of secular Mardi Gras.
Geography: 
Made in New York, United States
Status: 
On view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Paintings
Provenance: 

Dorothea Dreier, New York, 1922–1924; Société Anonyme, New York, 1924–1941; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Bibliography: 

Ruth L. Bohan et al., The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, ed. Jennifer Gross, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2006), 26, fig. 13.

Victoria C. Gardner Coates, Antiquity Recovered, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007), 199, fig. 7.

Thomas Bender, The Unfinished City (New York: New York University Press, 2007), 92, fig. 24.

Angela Miller et al., American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2008), 460, fig. 14.13.

Laurette E. McCarthy, The Paintings of Walter Pach, exh. cat. (New York: Francis M. Naumann, 2011), 14, fig. 7.

Robin Jaffee Frank, “Coney Island Baby,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2015): 118, fig. 1.

Robin Jaffee Frank et al., Coney Island Visions of an American Dreamland 1861-2008, exh. cat. (New Haven: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 2015), n.p., pl. 17.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.