Identity of mystery man featured in Led Zeppelin's IV album cover finally revealed

The Wiltshire thatcher, as seen on the cover of Led Zeppelin IV.
The Wiltshire thatcher, as seen on the cover of Led Zeppelin IV. Copyright Credit: Wiltshire Museum
By Theo Farrant
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Previously believed to be a painting, the cover art for Led Zepellin's IV album is actually a photograph of a Victorian thatcher taken in the English countryside in 1892.


After being shrouded in mystery for over half a century, the identity of the man depicted on the album cover of 'Led Zeppelin IV' has finally been unveiled

The photograph was taken by Ernest Farmer and likely depicts Lot Lang, a 19th century thatcher from the picturesque town of Mere in Wiltshire. 

At the time of the photo being taken (1892), Long was a widower residing in a modest cottage on Shaftesbury Road in Mere.

Brian Edwards, a researcher from the University of the West of England (UWE), stumbled upon the original picture while searching through a photo album for unrelated research extending from an exhibition he curated with Wiltshire Museum in 2021.

The Wiltshire Museum has since acquired the photograph and intends to feature it in an exhibition scheduled for the upcoming year. 

A long-standing mystery finally solved

The original album cover of Led Zeppelin IV
The original album cover of Led Zeppelin IVCredit: Led Zeppelin

'Led Zeppelin IV', which was released 52 years ago in 1971, has achieved global sales of over 37 million copies and includes the iconic hits 'Stairway to Heaven' and 'When the Levee Breaks'.

For the album cover, the portrayal of the hunched man, frequently mistaken for a photograph of a painting, was placed side by side and attached to the interior wall of a partially demolished suburban residence. 

The story goes that Robert Plant, the frontman of Led Zeppelin, stumbled upon a framed and coloured photograph of the original depiction of the Wiltshire thatcher in an antique store close to guitarist Jimmy Page's house Berkshire.

The photographed of a 19th century thatcher discovered by Brian Edwards.
The photographed of a 19th century thatcher discovered by Brian Edwards.Credit: Wiltshire Museum

Below the image of the hunched man discovered by Edwards, the photographer inscribed, "A Wiltshire thatcher." 

David Dawson, the director of Wiltshire Museum, has announced that the upcoming exhibition in the spring of the following year will be titled "The Wiltshire Thatcher: A Photographic Exploration of Victorian Wessex."

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