He was also highly skilled in the art of moulage, the creation of mock injuries to aid medical training.
Towne moved to London aged 19 to enter a wax modelling competition organised by the Royal Society of Arts. He won a silver medal for his human skeleton and then a gold for a model of a brain.
His work came to the attention of Guy’s Hospital and he was appointed to the staff of the medical school opened in 1825. He worked at Guy’s for 53 years and completed more than 500 wax models and over 1000 examples of moulage, some for India and the US.
However, Towne also sculpted in marble. Such classical work included an equestrian statue of the Duke of Kent for Buckingham Palace. He began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1834 and displayed about 14 works over the next 22 years, mostly portrait busts.
Examples of his marble sculptures have made several auction appearances recently. The latest came on August 4 during the inaugural Hanson Ross sale in Royston - a highly appropriate venue as Towne was born in the Hertfordshire town.
This sculpture of a boy estimated at £500-800 made the top price of the auction, selling for £3400 (plus 25% buyer’s premium) to a UK private buyer. Inscribed to the reverse J TOWNE Sculp, Guy’s Hospital, 1838, it stood about 23½in (60cm) high. It came in at the first Hanson Ross weekly public valuation event, held in Woburn.
Also inscribed Guy’s Hospital but dated 1835 was a bust of a gentleman, about 2ft 6in (77cm) high, on a painted plaster and wood cylindrical plinth, that sold at Edinburgh auction house Lyon & Turnbull in October 2015 as part of the Torridon House, Home of The Earls of Lovelace sale. It made a premium-inclusive £3375.
In June 2021 at Dreweatts of Newbury a marble portrait of a man dated 1837, also about 2ft 6in (77cm) tall, sold within estimate at £750 (plus 25% buyer’s premium). Inscribed J TOWNE Sculp, Guy’s Hospital, 1837, the auction house said it probably depicted a doctor at Guy’s.
Towne’s marble sculptures held by public institutions include two busts of the Duke of Wellington in Guy’s (Gordon Museum) and the Junior United Service Club, London. A bust of a woman now at the Russell-Cotes art gallery and museum in Bournemouth was once thought to depict Florence Nightingale but is now listed as an unknown subject.