Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras Artist: Joseph Stella (American, born Italy, 1877–1946)


American Paintings and Sculpture

On view, 3rd floor, Modern and Contemporary Art and Design

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.


Oil on canvas


77 × 84 3/4 in. (195.6 × 215.3 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Collection Société Anonyme

Accession Number



20th century


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 records is ongoing.



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
  • American Art: Selections from the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2023), 25, 211–12, no. 99, ill
  • Robin Jaffee Frank, "Coney Island Baby," in "Essays in Honor of Helen A. Cooper," special issue, 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
  • Laurette E. McCarthy, The Paintings of Walter Pach, exh. cat. (New York: Francis M. Naumann, 2011), 14, fig. 7
  • Angela L. Miller et al., American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2008), 460, fig. 14.13
  • Thomas Bender, The Unfinished City (New York: New York University Press, 2007), 92, fig. 24
  • Victoria C. Gardner Coates, Antiquity Recovered, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007), 199, fig. 7
  • 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
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

abstract (general art genre)




Signed upper right, at steep angle, "J. Stella"

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