52 years ago, the Led Zeppelin released his emblematic fourth studio album, which, in addition to a series of classics, generated over the years several questions about the mysterious image that illustrates its cover.
Many people tried to identify who the man was who appears bent over in the record, carrying a load of sticks on his back and who came to be called simply “The Hermit”.
What many did not expect was that the original image would be found so many years later. The photograph was discovered by the researcher Brian Edwards, who is a fan of Led Zeppelin, during research for an upcoming exhibition at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, and was on an old album. He said:
Led Zeppelin created the soundtrack that has accompanied me since I was a teenager. So I really hope that the discovery of this Victorian photograph pleases and entertains Robert, Jimmy and John Paul.
Further research into the image found indicates that the partial signature that appears in the photo may correspond to the photography teacher Ernest Howard Farmer (1856-1944), while the hunched figure is probably Lot Long – also known as Lot Longyear – a thatcher (a type of craftsman who installs traditional thatched roofs) from the small town of Mere, in southwest Wiltshire. Lot was born in 1823 and died in 1893.
Farmer’s photography will be included in an exhibition, Wiltshire Thatcher: a Photographic Journey through Victorian Wessexwhich is scheduled to be displayed at Wiltshire Museum from March 2024. Speaking about the exhibition, the museum’s director, David Dawsondeclared:
It’s fascinating to see how this theme of rural and urban contrasts was developed by Led Zeppelin and became the focus of this iconic album cover 70 years later [da foto ser tirada].
How awesome! Listen to Led Zeppelin’s acclaimed album in the player below.
The story of the mysterious cover of Led Zeppelin IV
The story of the intention behind the cover was never well explained and, as is clear above, the members of Led Zeppelin themselves didn’t really know what the painting was about.
Robert Plant He often says he found the painting in a second-hand shop in Reading, Berkshire, whilst on his way to recording sessions at Headley Grange in Hampshire.
Some people even claimed that the man in the cloak Led Zeppelin IV (1971) would be Henry “Brusher” Mills, a well-known Victorian snake hunter who lived in the New Forest in Hampshire while Jimmy Page pointed out the figure’s similarity to ‘Old George’ Pickingill – who first instructed Aleister Crowley in the occult (via Classic Rock).
Page also didn’t like to share many details about the painting. In 2010, she even told The Times that the cover “should be something for other people to savor, rather than me having to explain everything.” Now, the questions must end once and for all — or come back with a vengeance!