Daniel Celentano, Festival, 1934, oil on canvas mounted on fiberboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.55
Copied Daniel Celentano, Festival, 1934, oil on canvas mounted on fiberboard, 48 1860 18 in. (122.3152.8 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.55

Artwork Details

Not on view
48 1860 18 in. (122.3152.8 cm.)
Credit Line
Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor
Mediums Description
oil on canvas mounted on fiberboard
  • Figure group
  • Architecture — religious — church
  • Occupation — vendor
  • Architecture — industry — factory
  • Ceremony — festival
  • Ceremony — religion — procession
  • New Deal — Public Works of Art Project — New York State
Object Number

Artwork Description

This painting fairly bursts with the raucous sounds, pungent smells, and vibrant characters of Manhattan's ethnic street life. Artist Daniel Celentano, an Italian American from the uptown neighborhood called Italian Harlem, saw many a Catholic procession like the one shown here. Such street festivals, or festa, were vital social events that helped the Italian American Catholic communities of New York survive the stresses of the Depression as they had endured previous decades of poverty and oppression. Celentano contrasted the solemnity of the traditional procession with the swing band on a platform at the right, which blares out popular tunes for people dancing joyfully in the street. A market, providing familiar fare to the throngs, includes a fish seller, a pizza vendor, and a butcher hawking their wares in front of a spaghetti house.

The lively scene, evoking the scents of tasty Italian food, is overshadowed by the immense natural-gas tanks at the right that once blighted Manhattan's immigrant slums. Only those too poor to live elsewhere settled in the Gashouse District along the East River, where the gas plants leaked noxious fumes. By the time of Celentano’s painting, however, the gas plants had nearly vanished, along with the worst of the nineteenth-century slums.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Related Books

1934: A New Deal for Artists
During the Great Depression, president Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised a “new deal for the American people,” initiating government programs to foster economic recovery. Roosevelt’s pledge to help “the forgotten man” also embraced America’s artists. The Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) enlisted artists to capture “the American Scene” in works of art that would embellish public buildings across the country. Although it lasted less than one year, from December 1933 to June 1934, the PWAP provided employment for thousands of artists, giving them an important role in the country’s recovery. Their legacy, captured in more than fifteen thousand artworks, helped “the American Scene” become America seen.