As a museum curator, Maureen Power is used to being surrounded by art and history; but in her own home, the history of the art remains a mystery.
Power and her husband are both historians with an interest in old architecture, so they bought an old home on Freshwater Road in St. John's eight years ago, knowing the murals on the ceilings in some of the rooms were quite old, with unknown origins.
The oldest mural is likely the one in the living room, and was discovered by a previous owner, Power said.
"Apparently there was a drop ceiling in there — I was talking to the owner who revealed it — and so what he did was, he was changing the light fixture or something and he just popped the hanging ceiling and put a flashlight up there and saw this mural, so then he took down the drop ceiling and restored it," Power said.
"That's the living room one that we know is original to the house. It's got Newfoundland berries, it's got butterflies, it's got a night sky. There's a rope motif and there's the Newfoundland flag going around."
But that mural is certainly not the only artwork in the home.
There is another one in the porch, with star signs and a man pouring a pitcher of water; in the upstairs hallway, a more modern ceiling mural depicts what Power believes is either an angel or St. Michael — a piece that Power thinks is more modern, or perhaps an older mural that has been painted over.
There are also scrolls and other symbols painted on the ceilings around the home.
"It's just so beautiful to be around. You really feel like you're a part of the history of St. John's," she said.
"Even though I work in history every day and I work with the collection from The Rooms every day, I still kind of feel like this is part of what I like to do, what I think about, what I contemplate."
Power and her husband rented out the house while living out in the suburbs, but decided to downsize and move into the heritage home and begin the work of restoring it to some semblance of its original design.
That prompted her to learn more about the house's history, so Power turned to a Facebook group for local history buffs with 16,000 members to try to learn more about the paintings that make her home so unique.
That's where it was suggested it could be the work of Polish artist Alexander Pindikowski, who lived in St. John's in the late 1880s and is the hand behind murals at some prominent buildings around the capital city.
Pindikowski was found guilty of attempting to forge cheques in 1880 and sentenced to 15 months at Her Majesty's Penitentiary. While serving time, he was let out of jail to paint ceilings at some of the city's more prominent buildings.
"People that lived here before have been emailing me and messaging me on Facebook and saying it's the same artist who did the frescos at the Basilica and Government House and the convent that did these," said Power.
When his sentence was served and he was again free, Pindikowski advertised painting services in the local newspaper, before he eventually moved to Boston.
Power said it's possible Pindikowski was hired by the house's original owners to paint the ceilings, but it's not certain.
In her quest to find out more, Power said she'll continue to seek out information to determine who the original artist may have been for all the pieces — even those yet to be discovered.
While moving her family into the home earlier this year, Power noticed a small chip of paint had come off the wall going up the staircase.
"There was a bit of paint — just like a little bit of paint — off on the walls on the way down the stairs, so I got a plastic scraper and started scraping, and I revealed another mural. So until we get settled in I'm not gonna go back to try and uncover any more of it," she said.
More to be discovered
While she's got about a football-sized section of that mural revealed for now, Power plans to wait until she can learn more about how to do it safely.
"Since I found the one on the stairs I'm itching to find out if there's more and how I can uncover them and restore the house."
Instead of scraping, Power has other plans to determine what other artistic mysteries could be hidden under layers of paint and plaster.
"Our friend has one of those cameras for plumbing, and we're gonna take down the chandelier and put that [camera] up above the drop ceiling that's in the dining room and see what's up there," she said.
"And then we're gonna try to do the same in the other rooms to see what the ceilings are from, because every room has a different ceiling height."
Power hopes to bring these hidden artworks back to the light, as well as track down the artists, even if the origins remain murky — for now.
"We're hoping to uncover a lot more and if we can, where I work at The Rooms and I know a lot of conservators, I'm hoping that I can get some advice from some of them about how I can take off the paint."