Following the $450.3m sale of the Salvator Mundi at Christie’s New York last week, Thomas Campbell, the former director and chief executive of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, has sparked controversy after posting an image on Instagram of the painting before restoration.

Below the image of the Leonardo da Vinci, Campbell, who left the Met at the end of June, wrote the caption “450 million dollars?! Hope the buyer understands conservation issues…” followed by “#readthesmallprint”.

Campbell’s account @thomaspcampbell has 37,400 Instagram followers and, at the time of writing, the post had over 2,800 likes. But those less impressed with it include Robert Simon who, along with fellow New York-based dealers Alex Parish and Warren Adelson, bought the painting after it appeared at a small provincial auction in the US in 2005. The consortium, known as the R.W. Chandler company, then tasked New York-based restorer Dianne Dwyer Modestini with conserving the painting.

In the comments below Campbell’s Instagram post, @robertsimonfineart wrote: “Dr. Campbell, this is an incredibly ill-informed and mean-spirited comment about one of the most respected painting conservators in the world, one who incidentally spent many years diligently working at your former institution. I personally observed the conservation process on the Salvator Mundi and can attest to the absolute honesty, modesty, and respect that Dianne Modestini brought to her work on the painting—carried out at the highest ethical standards of the profession. Given the prevalence of so many foolish remarks in both serious and social media, I have refrained from responding, but feel compelled to do so now.”

Campbell then responded: “I have [the] greatest respect for Modestini. Was simply remarking, as so many others have, on extensive amount of conservation. Seems to be a lot of over-sensitivity out there.” Read more