Researcher Identifies Old Man on ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ Album Cover

51 years ago today, Led Zeppelin IV was ushered into the world, forever changing rock music. The record featured some of the band‘s seminal hits, including “Black Dog” and “Stairway to Heaven,” along with a now iconic painting on the cover, which depicted an old man hunched over carrying a bale of twigs on his back.

According to the New York Times, Brian Edwards, a research fellow at the University of the West of England, was routinely browsing the internet for auction finds in March, when suddenly, he spotted a remarkably similar image of the old man in a Victorian photo album. “There was something familiar about it straight away,” he told the Times.

After contacting the Wiltshire Museum, who previously bought the photo album, Edwards determined that Ernest Howard Farmer was the photographer behind the work and the old man in the picture was named Lot Long, who was a local thatcher living in Mere. “It sounds like good detective work, but in truth there was a lot of luck involved,” Edwards added.

How the band sourced the image themselves is a bit of a mystery. Legend has it that vocalist Robert Plant and lead guitarist Jimmy Page were browsing an antique shop, much like Edwards himself, when they spotted a colorized photo of the old man, eventually making its way to becoming the record cover of their fourth studio album.

The forthcoming exhibition at Wiltshire will chronicle over 100 images from the Victoria photo album, which “captures the spirit of people, villages and landscapes of Wiltshire and Dorset,” according to the museum. The show is set to go on view from April 6, 2024 to September 15, 2024.

Elsewhere, VILLAZAN explores chromatic conversations in The Power of Color exhibition.
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