Scholar of early Christian sarcophagi; Chair of the Art Department at Barnard College. Lawrence graduated from Byrn Mawr College in art history in 1923. She continued on to graduate school at Harvard, where she worked under the Princeton scholar Charles Rufus Morey who was on exchange for that year. It was Morey who introduced her to early Christian art. In 1924-25 she was appointed assistant at Wellesley. She was awarded a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome for the 1925-27 period. Two long articles in the Art Bulletin, one on the City-gate sarcophagi and another on columnar sarcophagi date from this time. She was an instructor at Bryn Mawr, 1927-28. In 1929 she moved to Barnard College, where she made her career. She continued to pursue her doctorate, which she received her Ph.D. in 1932 from Radcliffe in art history, although her connections with the Princeton scholars during these years really indicated a dual allegiance. She remained closed to Morey throughout their lives. At Barnard she rose to (full) professor and chair of the department. In 1941-42 she was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, working on Ravennate sarcophagi, which appeared as her 1945 book with the same title. The book was only the second monograph in the Archaeology and Fine Arts series to be sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America. Later articles appeared in a number of festschriften, including those devoted to Belle da Costa Greene in 1954, Erwin Panofsky in 1961 and Rudolf Wittkower in 1967. In 1967 she retired from Barnard. In retirement she divided her time between Rome, New York and Little Deer Island, ME. In 1970 Bretschneider reprinted her 1945 Sarcophagi of Ravenna. Her final essay was that to the festschrift to Otto J. Brendel in 1976. While lecturing to a group of scholars on her current topic of interest, Roman pagan sarcophagi, she fell in Velletri, Italy, breaking her hip and elbow. She died ten days later in a Roman hospital.
"City-Gate Sarcophagi." Art Bulletin 10 (September 1927): 1-45; "Columnar Sarcophagi in the Latin West." Art Bulletin 14 (June 1932): 103-85; The Sarcophagi of Ravenna. [2nd Monograph on Archaeology and Fine Arts sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America.] New York: College Art Association, 1945; "The Velletri Sarcophagus." American Journal of Archaeology 69, No. 3. (July 1965): 207-222; "Season Sarcophagi of Architectural Type" American Journal of Archaeology 62, No. 3. (July 1958): 273-295; "The Importance of College Art Courses in the Present Emergency." College Art Journal 2, No. 4, Part 1. (May 1943): 102-103.
Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, p. 63, mentioned; [obituary:] Heuser, Mary. "Marion Lawrence." American Journal of Archaeology 82, No. 4. (Autumn, 1978): 575.