In order to understand his position, we must therefore consider the origins of the Dominican observant movement and its early position on poverty.
While not advocating a complete dispossession of all property, the early observant Dominicans were, I think, clearly inclined toward a valorization of poverty in and of itself that was in many ways closer to a Franciscan approach than the standard Dominican understanding of poverty as a means toward some given end.
If the observant movement was to survive and flourish within the Order of Preachers, it would have to find a way to temper some of its more extreme elements.
During the years in which Mulberg was involved in the struggle against the beguines in Basel, the Dominican observant movement was undergoing hard times.
Although a supporter of reform, he was actually a compromise candidate whose election was intended to prevent the order from fracturing into deeply opposed observant and conventual (or nonreformed) branches.
This is not to suggest that the altar represented a clearly-defined program of Conventual propaganda, but rather that the divisions between Conventuals and Observants that became increasingly obvious over the course of the later Quattrocento could already begin to be discerned in the Santo high altar project.
66) Up to the mid-fifteenth century, Observants seem to have preferred using old, established iconographic formulas with a strong emphasis on images of the Crucifixion and the Madonna (the latter either grouped with other saints, often Franciscans, or in narrative scenes such as the Annunciation, Assumption, or Coronation), themes long popular in Franciscan churches in general.
69) In 1474, the Tuscan Observants spelled out the implicit ideals of reformed church decoration: "avoid in the said edifices every superfluousness of grandeur and of curiosity in stone .
87) The Observants might have tried to claim that they were returning to the original spirit of Saint Francis's Rule, but the Santo Conventuals had concrete, visible reminders of their privileged position within the order thanks to the permanent presence of Saint Anthony's miraculous body and Donatello's absorbingly-detailed narrative reliefs.
The Conventual friars presumably would have also understood the Antonine narrative reliefs and the general sumptuousness of the complex in light of the pressing questions about property and primacy that were facing their branch of the Franciscan order in a period of increasingly-fraught relations with the Observants.
There is no evidence of her religious vocation until after Margarita's marriage in the late 1420s when the saint entered the Corpus Domini, a Ferrarese convent that was in the process of becoming a house of Observant Poor Clares.
23 For the most recent biography of Saint Catherine and a detailed account of the difficult transformation of the former house of tertiaries into an Observant Clarisse convent, see Vigri-Foletti, 1-76.