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

Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras


Oil on canvas

77 × 84 3/4 in. (195.6 × 215.3 cm)
Gift of Collection Société Anonyme
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.
Made in New York, United States
Not on view
20th century

Dorothea Dreier (1870–1923), New York, 1922–24; transferred to the Société Anonyme, New York, 1924–41; given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 1941


Victoria C. Gardner Coates, Antiquity Recovered, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: 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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.