Terminal figures, also known as herms or hermae, are sculpted or carved figures that are usually used as a decorative element at the top or bottom of columns, pilasters, pedestals, or other architectural structures. These figures typically consist of a human head or bust on a plain pedestal or plinth.
In ancient Greek and Roman architecture, terminal figures were often placed at the corners of buildings or at the ends of walls. They were considered to be protective or apotropaic, warding off evil spirits or bringing good luck. The use of terminal figures as decorative motifs continued throughout history and can be found in various architectural styles, including Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical.
Terminal figures can be purely ornamental, serving as a decorative element that adds visual interest to a structure. They can also be used to symbolize specific figures or concepts. For example, in classical architecture, herms depicting gods or heroes were common, such as Hermes or Hercules.
In addition to being used as standalone figures, terminal figures can also be incorporated into larger decorative schemes. For example, a row of columns may be adorned with terminal figures at their tops or bottom, creating a unified visual effect.
Terminal figures serve as a way to add a human touch to architectural structures, bringing a sense of life and personality to the built environment.
Ornamental use as a finish motif of the conventionalized human figure, all or part.