Franz Seraph Hanfstaengl was born in Baiernrain near Bad Tölz on March 1, 1804. He was one of the most significant German portrait photographers of his time. Hanfstaengl specialized first in lithography and also knew its inventor, Alois Senefelder. From 1819-24 he studied at the Art Academy in Munich.
Beginning in 1825, he worked for eight years primarily with the creation of a lithographic portrait collection of important Bavarians ("Corpus Imaginum"). In 1833, he became independent with a lithographic studio, but two years later he moved to Dresden, where he received a large commission from the State of Saxony: Hanfstaengl was to reproduce the collection of paintings in the Dresden Gallery as lithographs.
By 1845, he had transformed over 130 paintings into lithographs of peerless quality. Thereafter he returned to Munich, where he met Löcherer, who introduced him to photography. The advantages of the new medium over lithography as a means of reproduction meant that in the time that followed, lithography was used less and less.
Hanfstaengl anticipated the breakthrough of photography and in 1852 opened a photo studio in Munich. He documented important events in society, such as the building of the Glass Palace or the opening of the German Industrial Congress in Munich, and he created studies of children as well as city views.
Beginning in 1855, the "Album der Zeitgenossen" [Album of Contemporaries] appeared, which contained portraits of important celebrities such as Christian Andersen, Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt. In posing these his portraits, he oriented himself toward the style of Baroque patriarchal images.
Franz Hanfstaengl died in Munich on April 18, 1877. His son Edgar had already taken over his studio in 1868 and introduced the name "Franz Hanfstaengl Art Publishing". The publishing company continued on for generations within the family and was in existence until 1980.