In the mid-Nineteenth Century, it was felt that the interior decoration of St Paul's Cathedral was too plain. Even Queen Victoria herself remarked that the building was "dark, dingy and undevotional". Indeed, it was argued that Sir Christopher Wren (the architect) had been unable to finish his actual intentions for the interior of St Paul's and that, according to an account from his son, he had favoured the use of mosaic to decorate inside the dome.
A committee set to work in finding suitable artists and designers to brighten up the cathedral interior. By the end of the Nineteenth Century, William Blake Richmond had been identified as the artist whom the cathedral decoration committee wished to commission to design mosaics for the Quire (where the choir sits in the chancel of the church). In his design, the ceilings of the Quire aisles, as well as the walls and ceilings of the Quire itself, were to be encrusted with millions of tesserae made of glass and gold leaf.
The imagery he proposed drew on classical cultures as well as traditional Christian iconography. The ceiling of the cathedral Quire that we see here provides an extraordinary vision of The Creation. From east to west (left to right here), the saucer domes show: The Creation of the Birds, The Creation of the Fishes and The Creation of the Beasts. Each of the creatures can be identified as a particular species, including a peacock, an eel and even a cat!
Richmond was most proud of The Creation of the Fishes in the central saucer dome. He uses mosaic work to masterful effect creating a turbulent, frothing sea populated with lithe and fearsome fishes.