The cover art, shot by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin in Los Angeles, California, is a black and white photograph of Björk lying down on the patterned ground next to a swimming pool, covering her eyes from the sun and wearing her Marjan Pejoski swan dress. The duo M/M (Paris), known for applying and integrating their work on photographs (so called dessin dans l’image, or “drawings in the picture”), illustrated the cover, featuring a swan and the album’s title with feathers. Björk thought swans embodied Vespertine’s music, describing them as “a white, sort of winter bird” and “very romantic”.
Academic Nicola Dibben has likened Vespertine’s artwork and promotion to representations of the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan, emphazising the erotic overtones of both. She stated:
The cover art to Vespertine […] explores the theme of personal identity through visual means: hence Björk is featured in black and white, shading her eyes, lips slightly parted in an unmistakably erotic pose. For the first time in this context, however, she does not meet the viewer’s gaze directly. Instead, the superimposed image of a swan provides a protective shield between Björk and the viewer. Both this photograph and Björk’s subsequent appearances at promotional events dressed as a swan metonymically evokes not only the mythic figure of Leda, but more particularly the familiar legend in which she exchanges her husband, the Spartan king Tyndareus, for the God Zeus when he approaches her in disguised form. As in other visual representations of this myth, the entwined bodies of Leda and the swan permit a representation of erotic intimacy that would prove unacceptable if realised in a more literal fashion.