"William" is a bright blue hippopotamus just under 8 inches high located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is made of faience, a ceramic material that is fired at a high temperature, and is decorated with lotus blossoms, which represent the hippo's creative forces in nature.
An Englishman, Captain H. M. Raleigh, and his family owned a picture of the hippopotamus, which they named William. In 1931 the captain wrote an article for the magazine Punch about his picture of William. The name caught on, and since that time the little blue hippo has been known as William to almost everyone.
Little hippo figurines (like “William”) were very popular in 2000 B.C. They were often about four inches tall by about seven inches long and were usually used as grave goods, serving as protective figures for one’s journey through the Nile into the afterlife. The faience hippopotami were often decorated with lotus flowers, reeds, and other plants found living along the Nile, and were usually a beautiful turquoise or green color.
Fourth grade artists each made their own hippo figurine as part of their study of ancient Egyptian Art. Come see them on display on the first floor of Washington Irving!