SERRAO, LUELLA A. VARNEY (11 August 1865–1935) was an American sculptor best known for her portraits of famous American figures. Her father was Joshua Davis Varney, a civil engineer. Luella was born in Angola, New York. She moved to Cleveland with her father in the late 1870s. 

Serrao attended the Cleveland School of Art (now the CLEVELAND INSTITUTE OF ART). She was a gifted artist who achieved success in an era when there were very few women sculptors. By high school, she was taking lessons in painting and modeling. After high school, she eventually traveled to Rome, Italy, for further study, where she received a degree in art from the University of Rome. When she was in Rome, she met Mary and Edward Collins, Christian Scientists, who would later commission her for a portrait bust of Mary Baker Eddy. 

Many of her busts were done in the medium of marble. Serrao created portraits of Julia Ward Howe, Susan B. Anthony, Mary Baker Eddy, Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, and other notable figures. She exhibited her work at the Art Institute of Chicago as well as the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Additionally, Serrao exhibited her work at the Palace of Fine Arts and The Woman’s Building at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. Her work, “An Archbishop of Odessa,” can be found in the Roman Catholic Church in Odessa, Russia.  Serrao continued to work until her marriage to Italian lawyer, Teodoro Serrao, in 1889. The couple had one child, a boy. After his passing in 1907, Luella returned to the United States and continued working until her death.


Morgan McCommon